- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 1, 2001

CYNDI THOMSON
My World
(Capitol Records)
Musical debuts rarely sound as assured, or as refreshing, as Cyndi Thomson's unwaveringly buoyant "My World."
The 24-year-old Georgia native isn't another Shania Twain, though the two share crossover appeal and impossibly pretty visages. Miss Thomson's way of caressing a lyric and her voice, which sounds both sultry and innocent, radiates a knowing charm that belies her age. "My World's" country pedigree includes the requisite dollops of banjos, fiddles and pedal steel guitar play. But the results could unite mainstream radio outlets and country music loyalists.
"My World," the title track leading off the album, serves as an appropriate table setter. Its charming lyrics and splash of Southern allure lend support to Miss Thomson's sublime voice, an instrument of considerable promise.
"Things I Could Do" opens with a gimmick-laden checklist. Quickly, though, it shifts gears and settles into a pleasing groove.
The first single, "What I Really Meant to Say," showcases her supple singing as it conjures up a simple ode to heartbreak. The album's one pure ballad, "If You Could Only See," glistens as Miss Thomson sneaks up on the song's bombastic finish. The album wraps sweetly with "I'll Be Seeing You," a gorgeously orchestrated epilogue and a hint of what lies before this talented newcomer.
Miss Thomson, who wrote or co-wrote the bulk of the album, leaves an ebullient impression with "My World," one which will make her sophomore effort an event of some distinction.
— Christian Toto

GRAHAM PARKER
Deepcut to Nowhere
(Razor & Tie Entertainment)
Graham Parker, a graduate of the late 1970s punk songwriting school, can't hide the years anymore. The first hint is his slowly decelerating voice, a Dylan-esque growl that gets increasingly gruff with every new release. The second, more revealing clue can be found on "Deepcut to Nowhere," the prolific musician's latest album. "Socks 'n' Sandals," one of many appealing new numbers, finds Mr. Parker singing to a lover, "I dunno why you love me baby, I dunno why you care, I'm losing my memory, I'm losing my hair, socks 'n' sandals, that's what I wear."
The 50-year-old singer's sense of humor is on display on the song titles alone, witness "It Takes a Village Idiot" and "Syphilis & Religion."
A nettlesome nature is part of Mr. Parker's allure, and it can be found throughout "Deepcut," along with smartly orchestrated melodies. His sound continues to sneak away from its rhythm-and- blues roots, which is a shame. What remains, though, is a grounded pop sensibility, sung by someone well aware of his limitations.
Taken one at a time, the new songs don't resonate as much as when swallowed whole. That's not to paint the release as a concept album, since it is structurally similar to his copious 1990s work, which tackled new moods with every cut.
The joy of any new release by Mr. Parker comes from its lyrics, which often run a few paces ahead of its hooks. "Deepcut's" choruses, such as "and if you lose your mind, it's only in your head," shoulder the musical workload when the guitars and drums flag.
The consistency Mr. Parker demonstrates in his music never attracts much notice. His career's flame burned brightest during his first few albums with his backing band, the Rumour, and then retreated while peers such as Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello enjoyed brisk sales and higher profiles.
One reason may be that Mr. Parker rarely reaches greatness in his work, and "Deepcut" is again filled with solid, not stunning material. But longevity plus consistency is a double badge of honor few musicians can wear as proudly as Mr. Parker can. — C.T.

MARY SUE TWOHY
The Risk Involved
(Azalea City)
Artists have come to dread their sophomore efforts, for good reason. A second record separates the sheep from the goats. It's a true test of someone's ability to come back with something listenable after a memorable first record.
Takoma Park songwriter Mary Sue Twohy, however, selected songs that showcase her airy voice and she wrote or co-wrote four of the 11 tracks on her second studio effort, "The Risk Involved."
It doesn't hurt that this disc was produced by Pete and Maura Kennedy, who lend backing vocals and instruments. Mr. Kennedy also produced her debut recording, "Training Butterflies," in 1998. She won the Washington Area Music Association award for best new artist in 1999.
Miss Twohy and her voice, however, remain in crisp focus on this record that celebrates innocence and strength, not only in the lyrics and song selection, but also in their delivery.
The songs Miss Twohy wrote stand out, although she does a credible job with Si Kahn's "Luray Women," Richard Thompson's "How Will I Ever be Simple Again" and Nanci Griffith's "Old Land (You Are Holy)."
With Darryl Purpose, Miss Twohy wrote "Gift of the Magi," which was taken directly from the famous O. Henry short story. She co-wrote a song about a hope chest called "Box in the Closet" with Mary Gordon Hall.
Miss Twohy's own composition, "The Song of the Lark," deals with fear and the heartbreak of a young woman's failure to be open about her feelings from the start.
The title track, co-written with Franklin Taggart, about the transcience of of love, is possibly the most poetic effort on the disc.
Expect to hear more of Mary Sue Twohy. — Jay Votel

ELI
Now the News
(Forefront Records)
Contemporary Christian recording artist Eli's latest CD is an interesting mixture of songs, original to some extent, but verging on hokey. Functioning as a platform for criticizing the media and various social ills, the CD has some interesting lyrics that have either the power to salvage or spoil a given song.
Eli has an acoustic sound and voice that is strikingly similar to that of Crash Test Dummies lead singer Brad Roberts. The cheesy style of certain tracks seems incongruent with his alternative sounding voice.
The title track, "Now the News," is just kind of strange. Song No. 4, "Waves of an Ocean," is an upbeat number with a sound melody, making it the most significant piece on the CD.
The song "Million Bucks" has a more mainstream, popish feeling that is sharply contrasted by "Some Say," the folksy, instrumental number that follows it.
"Do What You Said" is not only a good number for the quality of the acoustic guitar accompaniment, but for the lyrics inspired by the "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet phenomenon that has recently been popular in Christian circles around America.
The CD ends on a sour note with "Better Day," a sing-a-long-type number of which not even the lyrics, although inspiring in content, are able to rectify its corniness. — Emily Rahe

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