By Mabel Suen
By Cassie Kohler
By Evan C. Jones
By RFT Music
By RFT Music
By Tom Finkel
By Ryan Wasoba
By Roy Kasten
If you came across the Skekses through its debut Notes on the Collapse of an Alternate Universe, you were no doubt confronted with the presence of bandleader Ellen Herget amid the album's knotty, stream-of-consciousness folk songs. That record was as promising as it was discursive, and for the band's newest release Herget has enlisted some new musical partners and streamlined her vision for the band. For the five-song EP Curse My Name, she is joined on guitar and harmony vocals by Evan O'Neal (Pretty Little Empire's drummer and Bo & the Locomotive's keyboardist) as well as upright bassist Anne Tkach (Rough Shop, Magic City). It's no knock on O'Neal and Tkach — both well practiced as supportive, intuitive players — that this is Herget's show. Her voice has a sonorous lift that doesn't quite shake off an earthen toughness inherent in her delivery and, more so, in her words.
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Union Electric's Glenn Burleigh recorded the EP with a Spartan aesthetic that mirrors the glinting, cold-water effect of these tunes. "Carietta" opens the collection with a keening pedal steel compliments of JJ Hamon (DemonLover, Magic City) and thick, clunky banjo strums that prop up the uneasy mea culpa of the chorus. Herget is more of a poet than a storyteller (cf. Bad Shoe, the all-female poetry quarterly she co-curates), so it's fitting that "Carietta" carries a mood of dirt-poor despair rather than a story-song narrative. By all rights, a Walker Evans photograph should accompany the song. The mood is lighter throughout the rest of the EP, and the acoustic folk instrumentation moves from downtempo waltzes ("Lonely Cowgirl") to front-porch pickin' ("Letter"). The ukulele sway of "Eve & Hera" is a charming closer, a dual character study that proves Herget an apt detailer of life's intricacies, quirks and convergences.
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