Rebecca Pronsky "Only Daughter"
It was a pleasant surprise to have the opportunity of following up my review of last year’s highly acclaimed ‘Viewfinder’ album by Rebecca Pronsky. Thanks must go to our totally awesome editor for saving me the price of the CD (more flattery in return for the next Steve Earle record). ‘Only Daughter’ is the fourth offering on Austin based label Nine Mile Records and they would have you believe that Pronsky has forsaken her “countrypolitan” leanings in favour of a more “gritty and dark” atmosphere, bravely disobeying the usual conventions of the Americana genre.
I take issue with that to a certain degree and suggest that it’s a response to mass over-use of the word “twang” in relation to ‘Viewfinder’ (I was as guilty as the next reviewer) which was just as dark and gritty in its own way. I also hear nothing in ‘Only Daughter’ that pushes it outside the conventions of Americana, hence its inclusion here. However, artists don’t tend to appreciate being pigeonholed and the new material is far from being a case of “same, same but different”. There is a shoe-gazing, alternative feel on tracks such as ‘The Garden’. I do wonder if the man who provides her with so much of the essence of her creative force, her musical muse, guitarist/producer and new husband (congratulations) Rich Bennett, has influenced this urban twist, driven as it is by a short and simple power chord riff. But tracks like this and ‘Big Demands’ are the exception. As soon as the chorus kicks in on opening number ‘Rise Up’, whatever the protestations to the contrary you just feel that Pronsky and Bennet are most at home with that sweet country, er, sound.
Mark Nolan of Garth Hudson fame provides pedal steel on the majestic ‘Better that Way’ while an interesting choice of cover gives us a glimpse of that Iris Dement/ Emmylou Harris unaffected intonation that she has honed so well on Mark Kozelek’s ‘Glen Tipton’. Slow tempo, comfort zone reflections on her world and the world around her in ‘Come Down’ and the delicate ‘Another’ bring us to album closer ‘Please Forget Me’ with its rousing music-hall sensibilities, a real curtain closer. She isn’t the kind of girl to be content with a winning formula. She already found that, felt the need to augment it and has succeeded with a subtlety which is admirable. What is never in question is Pronsky’s lyrical endeavour. Her strength and Neil Young like quest for truth and integrity shines through every word and proves that whoever the influences, whatever the genres, you can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t keep the country out of the girl.