Three in one (more)

New from Marie Moreshead, Adam Kurtz, and Hotel Arrival
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  August 13, 2008

TINKER BELL-VOICED: Marie Moreshead is out town’s new ingénue.

The Distraction EP | Released by Marie Moreshead | on Roadside Manna Records | at Sweet Leaves Tea House, in Brunswick | Aug 15 | and at North Star Cafe, in Portland | Aug 29

The Devil is Defeated | Released by Adam Kurtz | with Jaye Drew | at Slainte, in Portland | Aug 30

Hotel Arrival | Released by Hotel Arrival
We’re still in catch-up mode here, people. Last week, we previewed the releases of three discs. This week, we offer three discs that came out this summer, but didn’t hit my desk till recently. Let me reiterate: it’s impossible that any summer in Portland has ever seen this many high-quality releases. This is partly thanks to Jon Wyman, Micah Davis, and the rest of the good people at the Halo — they played a role in two of the three we’ll review this week — as well as the Studio, Jack Murray, Frank Hopkins, Isaac Shainblum, and any number of other good recording engineers in town, but also to the general ease with which musicians can record themselves these days.

The barriers to entry have largely been lifted, and despite what the major studios would have had you believe 10 years ago, this has been a very good thing. Sure, some drek makes it onto disc, but so does some really nice work that you otherwise would have never heard outside a local coffeehouse or bar unless someone was “discovered.”

Fresh From Portland — Marie Moreshead
Portland’s been a bit in need of a new ingénue, and Marie Moreshead is built for the part. With a Tinker Bell voice and a 20-year-old fresh face, she’s crafted on her debut EP a collection of songs that move between Fiona Apple and Sixpence None the Richer, with a nod toward Dave Matthews. When she moves toward country and rockabilly, you catch a glimpse of Jenny Jumpstart.

Working with a session band made up of the Cambiata’s Dan Capaldi on drums, Pat Lynch on a collection of instruments ranging from banjo to piano, and engineer Micah Davis, Moreshead is very much the front-gal, with vocals mixed as far to the front as any record I’ve heard this year. Generally, that’s a good choice, as she’s got a great, clean tone, and the effect of muted drums, especially, lends a lo-fi aesthetic that really works for her songwriting.

There are times, however, when she slips into a cartoonish and child-like squeak (the first verse of “Only Rearrange,” for instance) and could have some edges sanded off. It’s striking how very nice she sounds with doubled vocals, as on the great chorus to “In the Morning.” So maybe a little more polish here and there wouldn’t hurt.

The best tune is probably “I Love How . . . ,” where we get a bit of candy-cane vocal, but the quick delivery in the pre-chorus, riffing on “I like it when . . . ,” is exquisite, and we get a few choice lines, like “I’m dripping with happiness/I’m soaked to the bone.” Nor has a little innuendo ever hurt: “It’s amazing how these sounds can have their way with me.”

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