Whether you love or hate Marie Black’s Water Me depends a lot on whether you buy into her voice and lyrics. The rest of the album — the instrumental sections, the guest players, the production — are all fine. Black is ably backed by musicians who can play rock and twang with style and soul, and Black’s arrangements stick to the basics usually without succumbing to clichÃ©.
But then there’s the voice, and what Black is saying. It’s not that she doesn’t have the range — she sings in tune and sometimes reaches that tough, tortured singer/songwriter pitch at which she’s aiming. Black is pushing for the same kind of bravado that makes Melissa Etheridge and Lucinda Williams so appealing, but she often pushes too far, until it sounds less like honest emotion and more like theatrics. And her Earth Goddess shtick doesn’t help. Lines about swimming like a fish in the ocean (“Drop of Love”) or spending half a verse repeating how time moves quickly (“Fortune or Lies”) seem half baked. Metaphors get confused — “I heard with my own two eyes” seems clever for a second (“Portland Rain”) until you’ve thought about why someone would hear with their eyes, and it doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the song. And “Flowered Gun” doesn’t quite make the statement about the balance between vulnerability, strength, and menace it seems to want to make.
There’s a glimpse of Black’s potential at the end of the album on the final two tracks. She keeps most of her worst instincts at bay on “Wrecking Ball,” with a simple melody and little or no bluster. The album ends with an instrumental version of “Water Me,” a much more subtle take on the tune that shows Black has the talent to craft something more introspective and even beautiful, a teasing look at what much of the rest of the album could have been.
Words By: Nick A. Zaino III[Rating: 2.5/5]