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Hundreds of Lions

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Album Review

Erin McKeown first gained attention as a folky singer/songwriter, albeit one who crafted tunes with considerable pop music charm. Her music has expanded over the years, becoming more inclusive of styles like bluegrass, blues, jazz, classic pop, swing, reggae, and light rock. Her last studio effort, Sing You Sinners, was a collection of cover tunes from the '30s and '40s, putting her distinctive, throaty alto to good use with inventive arrangements that combined all of her musical interests. This outing could be seen as an extension of that set, with arrangements that bring bossa nova, '60s Brit-pop, and the heartbreaking folk ballads that first inspired her. "Santa Cruz" is a pop tune that brings to mind the mid-'60s work of Bacharach/David, a tale of missed connections and love gone awry, but the jittery percussion, jarring electric guitar, and McKeown's insistent vocal add an element of emotional darkness. Sustained organ notes and a somber, clanging electric guitar accent the somber mood of "(Put the Fun Back in The) Funeral." It captures the hopeless feeling of depression without completely plunging you into the abyss. "You, Sailor" and "Seamless" hark back to McKeown's folk roots. "Sailor" sounds traditional, just voice and guitar, a poignant song of yearning that uses the sea as a metaphor for the distance between lovers; "Seamless" is almost a cappella, with McKeownstrumming sparse guitar chords to support her desolate vocal and a striking punch line — "How can we know that apocalypse and bliss are truly seamless?" "All That Time You Missed" is brighter musically, if not lyrically, with its bossa beat making its tale of lovers struggling for connection sound like a gentle dance. The Farfisa piano and handclaps on "The Rascal" give it an early Merseybeat feel as McKeowndelivers a lively vocal that belies the song's message of anguish. McKeown's in fine voice throughout and the backing players add subtle polish to her finely constructed tunes. Her fluid vocals remain the centerpiece of the album, while her lyrics reveal the heart of a poet and the wisdom of a soul wise beyond her years. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Rich, Fun, Smart, Captivating

I could listen to Hundreds of Lions thousands of times and still hear new sounds and discover new musical and lyrical meanings. Erin offers so many little gifts - melodic turns of phrase, subtle variations on familiar themes ("Love can be work if you don't put in the fun"!!) - against a background of seamlessly arranged (on a shoestring budget, I imagine, which makes it all the more impressive) rich and varied, neo-vintage, electro-pop and haunting harmonies. You, Sailor gives McKeown's devoted fans a delicious new atmospheric taste of her earlier acoustic ballad style. The rest of this album is a delightful departure from EM's acoustic period and a wonderful adventure. It will take you places. You'll get blissfully lost, and then find yourself sailing along, transfixed and transformed by deep, uncharted waters. You may not want to come back.


Born: 1977 in Northampton, MA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Raised in Fredricksburg, VA, singer/songwriter Erin McKeown began her folk career by performing in local clubs and coffeehouses at night. By day, she attended Brown University to study ethnomusicology, a field that would eventually fuel the diversity and depth of her own music. In 1995, McKeown entered the mid-Atlantic song contest held by the songwriters' association in Washington, DC, and finished as a semi-finalist. With proof that others believed in her talent, she worked hard to found a label...
Full Bio
Hundreds of Lions, Erin McKeown
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