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Rosie Thomas | When We Were Small (Sub Pop)
How long can you hold your breath? Me, I can do nearly thirty-seven minutes. At least that how it listening to this record. Now I admit I've hear Rosie sing before, on Damien Jurado's Parking Lot and also with him on the Springsteen tribute album and in concert too. Still, I hadn't heard her solo; could she still reduce me to tears without Damien's words? 2 Dollar Shoes wafts in and gets the arm hairs rising with Rosie's voice borne on a breeze above its lilting guitar and piano melody. Snippets of old home recordings and families talking pepper the album, weaving in-between songs to tie them together and give a more intimate feel, as if that is possible after Farewell. Here her voice breaks like so many hearts will, missing "the way you danced with me," almost unable to release the words and thoughts. Even her cries of "I was wrong, I confess" don't soothe the pain of the realisation that "all I got was just this broken heart from you." The brief gurgle of a child's voice at the end make it a hard hitting outpouring. Wedding Day lifts the mood as she joyfully tells how she wants to "drive over hills, over mountains and canyons and boys that keep bringing me down" and "flirt with cowboys in front of their girlfriends" as a result of her new found strength. The carefree life is short lived, Lorraine broods with a cello wrapping itself around the words as if to protect and Finish Line is too fragile to be allowed out on its own. October has a chill like the month itself, but with enough warmth to make you remember the happier times portrayed in the song. It's such a simply powerful moment you wonder why others don't do it and it rekindles memories of old Paul Simon. Run is a much more sinister proposition and here she sounds like an evil Tori Amos as she stands in a graveyard and prays her salvation has a gun. This reinforces the feel of old-time America that the album exudes, as if all the songs come from the personal testimony of people in a long-lost photo album where the sepia tints add a grimy look and disguise the true colours of flowery dresses, cheap suits and tilted hats. By the time Bicycle Tricycle rolls along and she sings "I've been here before," and decrees that she "can't be homecoming queen for every boy that falls in and out of love with me", vowing to "turn my back, whatever it takes to let him go" with conviction, you feel there will be a few backward glances after the event. It's a fitting closing of the chapter and you can almost see the dust rising as you turn the last page on someone's childhood memories. You can exhale now.

Laurence Arnold
May-June 2002

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