Haven James

Rusty's Waltz
(Self-released)

Based on the CD Rusty's Waltz, it's hard to tell where Jen Powelson stops and the band Haven James starts, meaning that while there is some additional instrumentation on the disc — tiny doses of fiddle, mandolin, cello, and some very Mark Knopfler-esque leads — Powelson's loud rhythm guitar and bent-note blues wailing takes center and most of the rest of the stage. And that's a good thing, because in spite of the 49 influences listed on the band's MySpace page, the Arizona-based Powelson is pretty determined to make some very uniquely Jen-specific statements about pain and love. In a song about silence, "Six Conversations," she declares, "I just stare, don't make a sound, foot in the air, the other on the ground." The toughest moment on the album comes in the song "Turn The Light," which takes self-loathing to the cutting edge, literally. Powelson has good chops as a writer and singer, and she's only going to get better, which means she may learn not to step so hard on the swoops and flatted swings, the vocal gymnastics, to which she's drawn. This is a smart start for Haven James.

 
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