In her first solo outing Nora Keyes? finds a century-old scarab beetle lodged mysteriously in a crevice of her throat. Hacking and wheezing at it, she turns some vocal tricks, taking below-the-belt shots at over-eaters, trying for the life of her to expel the menace. This is all futile, see, as her crooked voice oscillates between motherly-chanteuse (y?know, kind of like the older, maternal whore that is real sweet and tempered who looks out for the younger hookers) and century-old hag with the drop of a discarded prophylactic.
As to be less arcane, let me say now that you?ll be hard-pressed to find anything to compare this album to, except perhaps the more lucid moments of Caroliner Rainbow or those chance finds in your local thrift store. It really does sound as if this might?ve been hocked from the 19th century for a camcorder.
Almost all of the selections are lead by Keyes and her organ, churning out vindictive melodies that almost never accelerate past the viscosity of a deep treacle. Four fine Los Angeles residents join her for the most part: Rebecca Lynn (violin), Ray Day (guitar), Creekbird (brass and drums), and Dame Darcy (autoharp and saw). Like a true team they explore the depths of Keyes? demented arrangements often cross-breeding them with fabricated Orientalism and glazed-over Americanism. ?Look at you you?re ugly? sounds like a race towards obesity in the mental-ward of some Bollywood Lucio Fulci remake, with our foul-mouthed necromancer launching a verbal torrent of name-calling and discordant howls in the upper-registers all along. Somewhere down the line she switches the treadmills to full speed and the band compensates seamlessly, watching the subject?s cellulite and skimpy gym shorts flail like they were fixed to a flagpole. Eewwww.
?Old pal? is a sweet ballad for guitar and saw that sounds like Harry Smith wandered into a mausoleum at the five in the morning where a group of degenerate looking circus freaks tried to play him a polite song before digesting the remainder of their pigeons and woodland creatures. This song is actually a Jimmie Rodgers cover- but fuck it, they steel it right from under his dead beak. I would say that the calling of this album into existence elicits the need for ?Nora Keyes? to become a new adjective. This record is so
Nora Keyes. 9/10 -- Andrew Zukerman (16 June, 2005)