A bigger hat is needed to cover these flaws!
Minstrel’s Daughter

Waterbug WBG90
(zero stars)

There’s time left in the calendar year, but at this moment Jennifer Leonhardt’s Minstrel’s Daughter has my vote for the worst release of the year. She bills herself as alt.country and “freeform.” The latter might be appropriate if by that term we mean that neither tunes nor vocals conform to known scales. To my ear the first four tracks sound like an acoustic punk/pop/psychedelia blend. The vocals are remote, as if they were one of those 1970s releases in which sound was channeled into the soundboard and then pumped through a slightly out-of-whack amp. That’s not a bad approach, actually, as Leonhardt has very little range. There are enough sour notes on this release to make Yoko Ono sound like a wood thrush by comparison. On track five, “Good Rope,” Leonhardt pulls away from the studio tricks for a song that’s stripped down. For a few moments she’s in synch and there’s a pleasant Americana feel to the song, but she can’t sustain it. It’s the kind of song that can fool some reviewers into labeling her music “raw” and “earnest,” but the rest of the album suggests that Leonhardt simply doesn’t have a very good voice. Or at least that’s what the first seven tracks suggest; I couldn’t take three more. The album cover shows Leonhardt hiding behind a giant gum bubble, dark glasses, and a hat. It’s the best idea on the album, though a bigger chapeau is in order.--LV

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