Karen Elson: The Ghost Who Walks

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Artist: Karen Elson

Title: The Ghost Who Walks
Release date: May 25
Label: XL Recordings/Third Man

No one could fault you for rolling your eyes when you heard that Jack White's wife (a fashion model by trade) was going to make a record. Obviously, the odds of her getting a record deal if she weren't  married to one of the most celebrated musicians of the past decade would be pretty damn long. 

Surely, the fact that the British singer married into a record deal will piss off some people, and if doesn't piss them off, they'll at least approach Elson's musical endeavors with some skepticism.
Turns out Elson's debut record isn't half-bad. It doesn't hurt that White produced the record, played drums on it, and recruited Dead Weather/Raconteurs bandmate Jack Lawrence to play bass on it. That being said, he plays it straight with his production (though he does leave his fingerprints throughout), giving Elson a chance to show off her talents -- for better or worse.

Her voice is pleasant enough but doesn't have a ton of personality. It works best when she harmonizes with herself and she shines on her cabaret-type numbers and her ghostly pop songs. When it comes to explore the more American musical idioms of country, blues, and folk, her voice sounds out of place -- not enough grit, not enough guts, not enough America.

All in all, I like her melancholy songs -- especially when she tackles murder ballads, as on the opener "The Ghost Who Walks" -- better than I like her singing, but it is in no way the embarrassment some people might've anticipated. 

Best song: "A Thief at My Door"
Rotation: Medium
Deja vu: Suzanne Vega, but not as good.
I'd rather listen to: Holly Golightly
Grade: C+

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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