Mary Flower is a hero of American acoustic-guitar music -- and proof that the most moving art is often found in one's own back yard. Ladyfingers, which sees release on Friday, November 16, at Swallow Hill, is the Denver native's finest recording yet. Flower's seasoned singing and acoustic playing dig into deeper layers of gristle and grit, maturity and mastery. Recorded in unadorned fashion at Sawtelle Studio, the disc delivers a dozen originals and covers (by Memphis Minnie, Mance Lipscomb and Ivory Joe Hunter, among others) that ramble from ghostly, Piedmont-style laments to living-room friendly, vintage jazz. Flower's hard-blues cuts are naked and nimble and cut to the bone with ease, while her sunnier numbers are sly and spare, laced with hints of nicotine and bitters. All of them benefit from her supple vocals, string bends and a rare I-know-just-who-I-am swagger. The disc also sports a wonderful supporting cast of locals (John Magnie, Pat Donohue and Mollie O'Brien, to name a few). Flower closes the disc with a thoroughly heartbreaking instrumental that echoes Mark Knopfler's most tender playing, across chord changes that are guaranteed to open the emotional floodgates. It's a gloriously sad closing to the disc -- almost as sad as the fact that while less-worthy Americana artists reap accolades, Flower struggles to be noticed. Go see this woman play her beautiful, blue-collar art and find out what flower power is all about.
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