Worth the Effort

Pick Your Poison (Independent)
Andrea Davidson

By Kevin Gibson

Note to musicians: When you send a review copy of your CD to an editor, always remove the shrink-wrap first. Why? Because music editors get piles upon piles of CDs every month, it's a pain in the ass to remove that cellophane and the difference between your album being heard or being tossed in the slush pile might come down to that.

As such, while trying to unwrap Andrea Davidson's Pick Your Poison, I thought, "Andrea, this better be worth it."

Well, merry Christmas to me.

Davidson, a Louisville native who grew up in nearby Madison, Ind., has released a 10-song set of guitar-and-vocal folk-pop that, between her gentle arrangements and emotive voice, made my 10-minute struggle with the plastic demon worth the effort. (Where is that damn CD opener?)

The album starts out with the somewhat jarring title track, a song about the fear and anxiety experienced over a not-entirely-voluntary first sexual experience. Listening to it, I could tell Davidson was pouring her guts out, but it still felt to me she might be over-singing just a bit.

Then "Sunday" began and I realized, well, that's just how she works. She puts every bit of herself out there for the listener to hear, no holds barred. And "Sunday" damn near made me cry, if only for the way her young yet somehow mature voice (she looks all of 20 to my old eyes) blended with the tender guitar strains and the chords she chose. The story behind the song isn't anything terribly special - it's about loneliness and missing someone who has moved on - but damned if Davidson doesn't pull it off with enough panache to make it sound special.

The gloomy "Nothing's As it Seems" moves into a song called "Turmoil," and once again I was surprised. While the former takes a realistic look at the world around us (with some nice imagery), the latter is almost a march, with an upbeat melody, some gorgeous backing vocals (Davidson) and a surprising harmonica solo (Davidson again) that makes the song sound cheery in spite of its pleading message. (This one is about longing and features little gem one-liners like "wrapped in blankets of you.")

"Blind Faith" tells the story of a single mother who is coping with abandonment, again with a melody and vocal delivery that might evoke tears. Davidson then later provides another unexpected surprise with a cover of "Fools Rush In" (made popular by Elvis Presley, of course) that literally gave me chills. What makes it work is that she restrains her pipes admirably during the early choruses - the gentle way she delivers the line "I can't help falling in love with you" the first three times downright melts. Then she delivers the knockout punch in the repeated final deliveries.

She winds up the album nicely with "Stay," a pleading, piano-driven ballad and "Tiny Hands," a sweet ode to her mother (which has a major/minor melody that sounds a bit like John Lennon's "Starting Over"). Inexplicably, they are one track and the latter song is not in the track listing - even though the lyric is in the liner notes. Odd, but 11 songs beat 10 every time.

To put it bluntly, Davidson sounds like a star in the making. She has a voice that could carry her in Nashville or in a jazz club, to be quite honest. And if she wanted to be a pop diva (let's hope she doesn't), well, she's already got the competition beaten because can actually sing AND write. And the truth is, the young lady is quite fetching as well. Catch her at Dutch's (she's a frequent performer there) while you can; otherwise, you may have to wait for the Grammy Awards. Or at least until you can get that damn cellophane off her CD.

Find out more at www.andreadavidson.net. Or find her at www.myspace.com/andreadavidson, if you're into that kind of thing.