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CD Review: Ed Laurie's Meanwhile in the Park

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The Deal: Soft-core acoustic fingerings in the vein of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, with a slight twist.

The Good: With a voice that could double for Cohen's and a complex finger-picking style like Drake's, Laurie's music is like the last 40 years never happened. But hang on to your classical guitars before you go all Blutarsky for the sin of folk-nostalgia. The British-born Laurie claims Cape Verdean folk singer Cesaria Evora as an influence, and it's his non-Anglo folk twists that separates him from most other Cohen and Drake imitators. The title track's nylon-string figures are tinged with Gyspy flavors, "By the Coconut Tree" is informed by Brazilian tropicalia breezes and "Albert" adds oboe to the exotic mix. But among the seven tracks are some so Pink Moon it's like hearing some recently discovered recording from Drake-producer Joe Boyd's attic: the same unfathomable finger-picking patterns and suspension-tunings that have frustrated guitar duffers ever since. Elsewhere, the strings that accompany the shuffle "Julia" mitigate the Drake vibe, though you're a better listener than I if Donovon's shaggy head doesn't pop into yours during this one.

The Bad: Laurie's lyrics are serviceable, but channeling Cohen's voice means narrative comparisons are inevitable and that's a battle nobody can win. Also, too much exposure to the gentle vibe may include the following side-effects – poetry-quoting, melodrama and turtlenecks.

The Verdict: Impressive musicianship and strong songwriting, but a little more Laurie and little less Drake and Cohen would do him good.

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