As a songwriter, Rebecca Folsom shows many faces on Shine, a collection of twelve original songs she recorded last year in Austin. At times her approach is pensive and spare, with minimally instrumented songs that recall other cerebral female writers, such as Edie Brickell and Nanci Griffith. This approach lends quiet power to "Not a Child," an unflinching reflection on a troubled time ("I made some wrong choices/Got caught in bedroom doors/I started to think that's what I was here for"). The album's closer, "I Will Love You," is a simple, perfect piano ballad that moves the emotions along with the keystrokes.
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But Folsom isn't a chronic navel-gazer. Like Susan Tedeschi, an artist with whom she shares a blues bent and a vocal prowess, her bawdier moments are her most satisfying. "Natural Disaster," and "Lift Me Higher" roll with pure New Orleans-style R&B, flushed out by wailing saxes, Wurlitzer and B-3 organs and the occasional searing guitar solo. It's a busy, gospel-flecked stew that could have easily leapt right over the top. But Folsom doesn't confuse soul with self-indulgence: Her songs are like little earthquakes: rattling and unexpected, but over before you've really figured out what's hit you.