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Jeff and Vida

One Horse Town – 2000 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Clarissa Sansone

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CDs by Jeff and Vida

This youthful, New Orleansébased acoustic duo offers a pleasing, if minimally ambitious, debut album of folk- and bluegrass-inspired tunes. As background, the songs soothe the ear and make the foot tap; Jeff Burke is skilled in playing guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Vida Wakeman's vocals, however, are less developed: she veers from affectedly nasal to plaintive, all with a seriousness that seems to belie vocal uncertainty.

"News for the Heart," a song that uses the metaphor of a newspaper to describe the dissolution of a relationship, is the most refreshing track. Wakeman lets go a little vocally, and the lyrics are original and specific. Other lyrics - about a failing family farm ("The Land that You Love") or young love and death ("Jack and Lily"), for example - employ the easy images of canned nostalgia, and seem insincere and uncompelling. The latter contains the unfortunate description "Lily was a pale girl/as translucent as they come."

The simple, direct "I'll Give You My heart" is a well done track featuring solid dobro and guitar work that effectively echoes Wakeman's tone. The title track, too, is one of the better ones, with more thoughtful lyrics and an easy, quiet feel.The album has its moments, but they are few; overall it contains the uneven sound of a debut. (P.O. Box 4088, New Orleans, LA 70118-4088).