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Voices on the Verge | Live in Philadelphia (Ryko)
Your first question is probably: on the verge of what? Well, the idea was for Voices on The Verge to be a showcase for a rotating roster of up-and-coming artists, performing and collaborating in a live setting. But the first four just stuck together and kept the name - so there. They are Beth Amsel, Erin McKeown, Jess Klein and Rose Polenzani. Our Jess is probably the only one you might have heard of, having had a well-received solo album out on Ryko recently, but the others have a fair number of indie releases to their name, and have worked or toured with usual suspects of the calibre of Dar Williams, David Gray, The Nields and the Indigo Girls. The sniffy reviewer on lumps the Voices on the Verge along with other 'quasi-feminist confessionalists', which manages to be both a meaningless and a very 80's evaluation. Judging by the pics on the web-site the image is very strong woman in Doc Martens, but with personal grooming not neglected. The moods and voices have variety too, from Jess Klein's wavering Baez-like folkiness to the sweeter sound of Rose Polenzani's voice. Beth Amsel's allowed a meagre two contributions and they are two of the best things here - a voice to remember and a name to watch out for, I think. Some combinations can conjure up McGarrigle memories, and the ensemble harmonising provides quite a rarely heard flavour.  Blackbirds is a bit too much like the kind of down-home folksiness you'd dread a disc like this would contain, but it's not typical. This is mostly singer-songwritery stuff, acoustically strummed, but with bits of piano and clarinet and electric guitar and accordion and percussion. It all makes for a warm and sweet and quite varied disc for fans of female voices and songs.

Jeff Cotton
May-June 2002