Forgiven Now


rovi.MR0000835090 3/26/02 Used
$2.39 $2.99

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    Forgiven Now Undertow Music Collective

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Review Text It's happened -- transfiguration complete. With its fourth album, Chicago's Dolly Varden has taken the formidable strengths of each recording -- first evidenced way back in 1995 on Mouthful of Lies -- and combined them in a seamless, breathtaking collection of rock and pop songs that embrace country music's gloriously complex heart without calling into play any of its cultural clichés, which have unfortunately been embraced by "alterna-twang" crowd over the past decade. Dolly Varden stands on its own as a rock band first. Part of the credit goes to the bandmembers' fortitude; they've hung on for seven years without a personnel change. Part also goes to the teaming once again with Nashville's Brad Jones, who worked with DV on 2000's Dumbest Magnets. But most of the credit has to go to the bandmembers themselves, particularly the dual front-person lineup of singers and songwriters Diane Christiansen and Stephen Dawson. Added to the mix on Forgiven Now is legendary Nashville session picker Al Perkins on pedal steel, adding a textured depth and dimension to the proceedings. While Forgiven Now displays a next step in terms of the band's growth and promise, it's a big one. The songwriting here has moved to a level where the excess is gone and the economy of language, instrumentation, and even hooks is given first priority. Nowhere is this more evident than in the songs of Christiansen, who has focused her gaze on an acceptance of things as they are, without the need to do anything to manipulate them. Her song "Lotus Hour," for all its expressionistic and painterly imagery, is a spare and poignant paean to look toward a larger construct -- that humans and their universe are limitless. With a droning series of acoustic guitars giving way to Eastern-tinged modal extensions, Christiansen sings to accept her realization that the universe is indeed much larger than her small working-class view and that, as a person, she has become aware that she is too. She accepts the sadness this awareness contains: "This is the lotus hour/It's time for us to leave/Float above the working-class houses and blossoming trees/This is the lotus hour/We are refugees from all the plans we've made/And all catastrophes/Touch everything in the room before we leave...." In the break, Mark Balletto's guitar screams above the fray as if acknowledging that, in the grain of her voice, this separation is painful. That track follows the title track by Dawson, whose Rolling Stones-ish country shuffle invokes the best of loose-wristed garage rock with the hammer-down emotion of Gram Parsons, as he sings of giving up resentments and anger. In his pronunciation and the slippery charge of the guitars -- with rim shots and floor toms getting a workout by Matt Thobe -- he gets to the bridge with Christiansen and they almost shout the "they are forgiven now" chorus with a joyous seriousness. But there's more as in the Christensen/Dawson/Thobe collaboration "Wish I Were Here," which tells a story too true and weighty to recount here. But in its intertwining guitars and voices and its dreamy pace, it could have been in Mulholland Drive. Dawson's stone honky tonk number, "There's a Magic," is a nod to the Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris collaboration, and the emotion pulled out of the tune between his and Christensen's voices is as real and true as water coming down the falls. And while there isn't one track here that doesn't warrant being written about, Dawson's "Time for Me to Leave," with it's shimmering 4/4 country-rock pulse, is a harrowing song of liberation after a final moment of illuminating realization. You can hear the brokenness in Christensen's voice and, amid the ringing entwining guitars of Dawson and Balletto and a B-3 pumping the changes, the brokenness is twofold: There's been too much abuse and heartbreak to remain in the current situation, but it's because of the heartbreak, and the light that gets in its cracks, that the opportunity arises. The most surreal track

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Surrounded by the Sound - 4:46
  2. 2. Trying to Live Up - 3:28
  3. 3. Forgiven Now - 3:01
  4. 4. Lotus Hour - 4:12
  5. 5. Overwhelming - 5:20
  6. 6. Wish I Were Here - 4:51
  7. 7. There's a Magic - 3:36
  8. 8. Time for Me to Leave - 4:53
  9. 9. Disappear - 4:29
  10. 10. 1000 Men Like Cigarettes - 3:17
  11. 11. Meant to Be - 8:36

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