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Voices from the Underground

Marisa Yeaman

June 15, 2011 Comments: 0

As an Australian, Marisa Yeaman is perhaps well-placed to offer a slightly different perspective, or sideways glance, at Americana. “Warm Night In Austin”, the opening track on this album, seems to hold out the prospect of exactly that,with its lyrics: I'm just an impostor from another nation, But I'm more at home than you know.
But it's not an aspect that is pursued, and too many of Yeaman's songs tackle familiar themes in familiar ways. So you get a song about homelessness, one about life on the road, struggling artists (albeit painters not musicians), the death of the hippy ideal. While all these are worthy subjects, you can't escape the feeling that they've been tackled more successfully elsewhere. Too often Voices From The Underground doesn't have that spark of originality or insight to set it apart from the crowd.
This is Yeaman's third release, and musically it's note-perfect and immaculately played throughout, with all the expected ingredients of acoustic and steel guitars, occasional dobro and mandolin. “Roadcase Blues”, a pleasant hymn to life on the road and “Grace's Ghost” are decent songs, and “Galileo” champions the astronomer for standing up for his ideals despite all attempts to discredit him.
Lyrically, Yeaman comes up with the occasional memorable line – describing the Austin music scene as the sound of hearts bleeding over steel strings. But elsewhere she settles for the commonplace: Life is a gamble and we roll the dice, she sings on “Age Of Discovery”, along with This night is young and we won't always be.
There's no doubt that Yeaman's heart is in the right place. It's no surprise that one of her songs tackles homelessness and inequality, and while “For Sale” comes across as heartfelt, it's just a little bit preachy. The album closer “Sharon” paints a picture of an aging hippy at odds with the times in which she lives, having kept true to her ideals while all around her have gradually drifted away.
Marisa Yeaman recently re-located from Australia to the Netherlands, and is touring the UK in October in support of this release.

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