the Ladies in the House
Gonna Be Pretty (Coldfoot)
Engelhardt enjoys words, whether she’s singing them or writing
them or, in the case of her new CD, both. Her lyrics are witty,
trenchant and persuasive, and she’s set them to melodies that
lull you into enjoying them as catchy tunes—until they veer
into contrasting territories. In other words, she’s got the
craft down cold, if not better than most because she has a
rare and intelligent edge in wordsmithery.
would be so great if you could be like me/It would be so great
if you could like me,” is the heart of the chorus of the opening
song, a single mom’s troubled lament to her teenage daughter
that brims with an undercurrent of all-too-familiar guilt
and shame transmission. The dynamic ensemble is headed by
pianist Bob Malone, giving jazzy inflections to a pop-lively
Engelhardt’s most high-profile gig is as one-fourth of the
Bobs, an a cappella ensemble with a 25-year legacy of creating
new ways to combine voices while performing a large repertory
of classics and originals. Since joining 10 years ago, Engelhardt
has created a number of her own original songs for the group,
so it’s not surprising (and, in fact, very satisfying) to
find her going solo as well.
The 13 album tracks offer a fascinating tour of degrees of
annoyance and pain, most rendered wryly. “Are you a pothole
or a ramp?” asks one anthemic song. “Do you want to help me
fly/Or trip me up until I cramp?”
Veering into the cynical, “Anywhere Else but Me” begins, “Woke
up on the sofa/Patterns on my face/Smacked my knee on the
table/I’m not used to this place,” and goes on to look at
love from significantly detached locations. “What Do You Look
Like” takes a parallel journey, but with temporal detachment.
Engelhardt also is an impressive balladeer, with a rich voice
and the ability to paint an evocative portrait with a poetically
few words. “Idaho” carries the terse refrain, “Scenery/Mountains
and rivers mute the mean in me” sung to the very effective
accompaniment of Gil Ayan’s solo guitar.
You Dead or Are You Undead” is a repeated chant of the title,
the basso of fellow-Bob Richard Greene underpinning the piece;
as Engelhardt joins the chant, “undead” starts to sound like
“wounded,” giving the song an intriguing ambiguity.
Engelhardt may be a tad too intelligent to rack up big mainstream
sales, but I hold out hope. For those who want to be in at
the debut of a witty, bright, affecting singer-songwriter,
head to coldfoot.net and grab a copy.