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Jen Starsinic

The Flood and the Fire – 2014 (Dangerous You)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Jen Starsinic

The studied yet soulful sound of Jen Starsinic makes more sense when one realizes that she not only learned the folk and old-time sound in rural West Virginia at its source, she attended the prestigious music program at Berklee in Boston. That combination of education and experience serves Starsinic well on this notable debut.

A transplant to Nashville, Starsinic employed the services of several Music City luminaries for various parts, including David Mayfield on vocals. The recording itself was made in Massachusetts with fellow Berklee grad Brady Custis producing.

There's a bit of Gillian Welch here, and a little of the mellow folk sound of Mandolin Orange there, with Starsinic's plain yet expressive vocals taking center stage throughout.

"Birdie In a Cage" is representative of the more forceful side of Starsinic's sound, with a full band sound supporting an insistent vocal; it's balanced by the spare, sprightly sing-along hooks of "Time To Lose" with its banjo-driven pluckiness reflected in both lyrics and music. Either way, she's admirably self-possessed and confident, perhaps her background in street busking explains her cheeky bravado here and on tracks such as "The Only One Who Can Break A Heart," which sounds like an unintentional corollary to Whiskeytown's "Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight."

Starsinic is a welcome new voice with one foot in the folk and old-time past, but the rest of her firmly in the future via the contemporary folk reflections of this impressive debut.