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Rosie Thomas | Only With Laughter Can You Win (Sub Pop)
Head slumped on the keyboard and in danger of short-circuiting it with the tears, breath uneven, head spinning, oblivious to all around me.
I wasn't prepared for that. Having been a fan of Rosie I thought I was ready for anything. But no, she has proved me wrong and dramatically so. From the opening a capella driftings of Let Myself Fall my bottom lip had remained stiff, matching the upper. The soft lilt of I Play Music flowed through me, warming, touching me as it passed, swirling and dancing on a warm, late afternoon. As with her debut, 'When We Were Small', it's the simplicity that gets you, nothing over the top, just beautifully played music and her incredible voice floating in there. The gentle plinks during Red Rover travel straight to the soul faster than the harmonising voices, Sam Beam's gentle voice underlining Rosie's, but still my resolve held, making me stronger if anything. Sell All My Things continues the scene set by I Play Music. This time she has travelled further, giving up everything to tour the globe and loving it: the retrospection of her debut; a musical scrapbook to childhood dreams now replaced by a scrapbook of ticket stubs; backstage passes and photographs from stages and venues viewed from a tour-bus window. There are regrets expressed about the nomadic lifestyle. All My Life almost gets my lip a-quivering, but being forewarned helps me through to the sparse You And Me. Piano and violin stride side by side with Rosie to reach Tell Me How with all its plaintive questioning. So far, no tears and it's not like it's a happy album, (Rosie could sing a computer manual and break you), it's just that the scars left by the impact of the debut are still there, the shock of the beauty of her voice and song composition can only hit so hard once, you're ready for it next time. Gradually could be a sister song to From A Distance and you can almost hear Nanci Griffith singing along, but then towards the end things take a turn - multi tracked vocals and gentle vibe see the song out and lead into Dialogue. This is where it all goes wrong for me. A gentle hum... a tape player clicks on, softly she talks in the mist of the sound, talking about her life, family and thoughts. Oh God, I wasn't ready for this. She sings on top of it all, but it's the haunting spoken words that cut me to shreds. I sensed the hand of Damien Jurado, but a look at the credits tells me it's Rosie's 'best friend' Eric Fisher. The backing makes me think of I'm Not In Love, a gentle 'ahhhhhhhh' that should soothe, but can't mask the sorrow hidden within. A shiver, a shake and eyes fill, screen becoming blurry, "I enjoy being alone, I feel strange and unique and strange" she says as it fades, music gone now, just the taped voice. Tears roll before the final voice declares "Sometimes I feel like I'm all on my own." The machine clicks off. I crumble. My head crashes down.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003

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