Jewels & Fools
You'd be a fool not to pick up a this jewel of a debut from Newark, Delaware band, I'm Not Sally. Sisters Stacy and Rhonda Hill provide eloquent insights into love lost and gained (but mostly lost) with lyrics both straightforward and original, at times curling words into tight spirals of rhyme. The tune 'Eye to Eye' was produced by Brian Paulson (who has worked with Son Volt, Kelly Willis, and other Americana artists). Rickie Simpkins, of the Tony Rice band, provides fiddle and mandolin accompaniment on some of the numbers, and Eric Heywood, who has recorded with Richard Buckner and Freakwater, plays pedal steel on several tracks. The Hills' versatile harmonies can be restrained and dispassionate ('A Lie'), ethereal ('Sometimes'), or delivered with bluegrassy dissonance, ('Silver Lining', the only song on the album not written by the Hill sisters, but by the band's guitarist, Ken Herblin). The tunes contain roots rock's requisite amount of introspection and minor keys, it's true, but they are artistically substantial enough to resist fitting into a formula. Review from Country Standard Time: Finally, we have I'm Not Sally, a Delaware band whose debut CD, Jewels And Fools (Big Prank) took me completely by surprise, not only because my tastes don't generally run to the roots-rock side of alternative country, but also because it seems evident to me that way too many bands get into the studio way too early, and I'm Not Sally started work on this album well before celebrating it's first birthday. Now, I'm hardly familiar enough with music outside of bluegrass and country to know who this band's influences are, but frankly, I don't care. In Rhonda and Stacy Hill, I'm Not Sally has writers with a fine gift for melody and a pair of well-matched voices singing steady, true harmonies (not to mention some capable rhythm guitar work). The rhythm section of Jon Monck and Greg Maners (bass and drums respectively) is accomplished and inventive, and Ken Herblin's guitar textures and leads poke out at just the right places; he and guest steel guitarist Eric Heywood complement each other well. With help from ace bluegrass fiddler Rickie Simpkins (his appearance on one cut the outcome of a fortuitous studio encounter), local banjopicker Mark Unruh, and a few others, the quintet slithers through a set that's heavily weighted toward straightahead, mid-tempo tunes with nicely thought-out arrangements of uncomplicated chord changes and memorable melodies. To be honest, I can't tell you much about the lyrics, but that's because the music is so engaging, so finely detailed, and so harmonious that it pretty well crowds everything else out of my attention. If your idea of a song is that it's essentially a setting for a poem, you might find this a tad insubstantial, but if you're willing to let the intelligence and beauty of the music do the work, Jewels And Fools is a mighty satisfying album. -Jon Weisberger.