mellow is good

Acoustic (Atlantic) E

verything But The Girl

By Cary Stemle

A few days after I got this album, my music editor asked me, "How's it sound?" I was at a loss.

"Well, it's mellow," I said, after a few seconds searching for the right word. And it's nice, I thought after pondering my initial indecision about how to describe Everything But The Girl.

EBTG is actually two people, Ben Watt and Tracey Thom, who have been together for more than ten years. After scoring a hit with a live album, Acoustic Concerts, the duo decided to make acoustic studio recordings of some of their live material, much of it new interpretations of other artists' fairly well-known pop songs.

Acoustic is the product, a tasteful collection of jazzy duets that subtly grows on you. Thom's singing is almost too sweet, but her voice, sometimes husky, other times vulnerable, eventually won me over.

The sparse arrangements are designed to use Thom's voice as an instrument, closely accompanying the piano or acoustic guitar that comprise the lead melodies. Watt adds fine harmony vocals.

Most of the covers — Elvis Costello's "Alison," Tom Waits' "Downtown Train" (popularized by Rod Stewart), Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher than the Rest" — are given fresh readings. Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time" is played straight, a tribute to a song already perfectly realized by the original artist.

So the moral of the story is: There's nothing wrong with mellow, especially when it's this well executed. And just because it's not loud doesn't mean there's not a lot of music being made. This album proves that.