Dot Allison, Room 7 ½

In today’s fickle musical climate, it is hard to think of many female Scottish singer-songwriters who have made more than a ripple in the U.S. Sure, KT Tunstall made waves a few years back but she has been quiet lately.   (Mind you, we are not talking about Scottish women known mostly for their vocal chops so Susan Boyle and Annie Lennox are out of the discussion.)

Nevertheless, Dot Allison has plenty of fans in the music community who love her past work with the 90s band One Dove and her subsequent trip-pop solo recordings. Paul Weller, Pete Doherty, and members of Massive Attack are among those who have said great things about Allison.

That said, with all of this acclaim, it seems like Allison might break Stateside any day now. So, will it happen with her latest release entitled Room 7 1/2? Well, probably not but that is not a bad thing.

Room 7 ½ is a moody, fragile piece of art that hints at the darker aspects of relationships. One can tell this just by some of the song titles–”Paved With A Little Pain,” “I Wanna Break Your Heart,” and “Love’s Got Me Crazy” do not conjure up many happy thoughts.

With these sadder sentiments, it comes as no surprise that Allison ignores much of her electronic past and sticks with a folky, natural sound on Room 7 ½ and it works well with the subject matter. Two of the better songs here are “Cry” with Allison’s hushed vocals and her capable band’s subtle guitar and percussion work and “While She Sleeps” which shines with a quiet piano and an acoustic guitar framing the singer’s voice nicely.

Despite that, it has to be said that Allison’s latest will be a hard listen for some–particularly in the middle where things slow down so much the songs lose their resonance. So much so, that the singer’s fine lyrics get lost in the mix.

Things do get more interesting near the end, however, as the story song “Jonny Villain” lets Allison and her band get more aggressive and the closing track “Portrait of the Sun” uses such diverse instruments as the moog, saxophone, and organ to fine effect.

Also of note are the two tracks that feature Allison’s famous fans. Weller guests on “Love’s Got Me Crazy” and Doherty sings on “I Wanna Break Your Heart” and both songs are intriguing but are not as sublime as Room 7 ½’s finest moments.

Author-Todd Sikorski

[Rating: 3/5]

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