Aural Elixir, Partially Domesticated Amazon: Exposed! (Independent)

Aural Elixir, Partially Domesticated Amazon Exposed, album cover

On their fifth album since the late ’90s, this “rock-folk-jazz fusion” collective, which at one time featured Lynn Drury, has by now pared itself down to a jazz trio format, complete with upright bass and Johnny Vidacovich sitting in on drums. It puts the spotlight solely on remaining original member Jesse Maclaine and her unusual fusion of strong-yet-spacey female singer-songwriters: Joni Mitchell’s sly and perceptive confessional meets Fiona Apple’s confrontational doomed romantic, with little hints of Tori Amos’ gonzo earth mother and Carole King’s practical warmth.

It’d be hard to fault Jesse for not having Joni’s novelist eye for detail, or Fiona’s grasp of her own psychic fault lines. Who does? But the degree of difficulty is often just too large for Maclaine to take on all by herself, especially since the new minimalist format and its attendant freedom—these 13 songs average six minutes apiece—force her to carry the full emotional weight. Her voice is expressive, and her lyrics can be engaging, but not to the extent of carrying the endless meandering of “So Cold” or “Move,” which is partially about “tigers reclining and dragons dining in purple caves with a great sword shining.” She gives that last phrase a goofy, Toriesque faux-Brooklyn delivery that she hasn’t earned the right to, and her technique is often just as annoyingly misused: like Joni, she swoops and dives and repeats rushed phrases, but unlike Joni, the words she’s choosing don’t call for that kind of emphasis. Mannerisms alone don’t equal depth.

Merely scaling her ambitions down a little works wonders, though. “You Don’t Need That Pill” is as direct and tough as its title, while the nicely sardonic “All Friends Here” is just hardheaded enough to form a nice contrast with its upbeat stroll: “They pick their opinions like they pick their noses.” Working some honest-to-goodness New Orleans piano tradition into “We’re All Millionaires” lets some air into her rather stuffy vision: “I can’t wait ’till I’m a millionaire / I’m gonna show the whole world how to care about each other … I’m gonna give it away / Well, most of it, anyway.” No one’s suggesting Maclaine give up her flights of fancy, but grounding them a little more often might give the rest of us a reason to latch on.

 

  • Boplicity girl

    Wow! Is he listening to the same CD I have listened to? Rather than just lazily and sloppily comparing her singing with some of her musical influences (anyone can do THAT), he could have listened for her creativity, her humor, her musical inventions. Oh, and I believe it’s a bit of an insult to say that Johnny Vidacovich was merely “sitting in.” Uh, he’s part of the band. As was the tasty and solid bass player Andrew Wolf, who he doesn’t even mention.

  • epistrophy

    What a strange review …. Jesse doesn’t sound like anyone else but herself. She has an eclectic blend of power, sultriness, ebullience, and effervescence, and this album combines her soulful voice with some of the best musicians around New Orleans! I love this album! It’s highly creative, and a mixture of fun and depth.

  • audiophile36251

    This Aural Elixir CD may be their best … it rocks with authenticity, fresh lyrics, and impeccable playing. Totally great!

  • Lynn Drury

    One thing I’d like to add is that Jesse is an amazing vocalist! She has a style all her own. I am still a member and play with Aural Elixir when they are here in Nola. Also, It was disappointing that Andy Wolf, a great New Orleans bass player, was not mentioned here.

  • jesse maclaine

    Thanks for writing a review of my new CD, it’s always an honor just to be mentioned in Offbeat Magazine. I especially appreciated that my CD Release Party was the pick of the day for Monday, what a thrill! And thank you friendly readers, for taking the time to leave comments, you are very sweet.

    Robert, I, too, was disappointed that my steadfast friend & long time Aural Elixir band member, Lynn Drury, had a last minute conflict and couldn’t make it to the two day studio session at Tim Stambaugh’s Word Of Mouth Studios when we recorded this record in 2011.

    Partially Domesticated Amazon: Exposed! is the first of a 3 CD
    series for people interested in the process of making a record. This
    is the live version, basic trio in the studio, live vocals,
    with everything Exposed- flaws & all, as it says in the liner
    notes & on the website. The next version will include Lynn &
    all the other vocals, instruments, edits and overdubs to make a more “mainstream” style record. So do not fret, she is on my next three CDs- already in progress, as is Johnny Vidacovich, Andrew Wolf, Alex McMurray & a number of
    other wonderful New Orleans musicians.

    I was surprised that you didn’t mention my CD’s bassist by name, but maybe you are not familiar with Andrew Wolf, the bass player from Iris May Tango,
    Mas Mamones, all over the local jazz scene & of course he was
    one of the original members of Royal Fingerbowl.
    He & Johnny did an excellent job on this CD, improvising their
    parts with very minimal charts, they had never heard these songs
    before & there was no rehearsal. The superlative quality of their
    rhythm section work is one of the main reasons I decided to
    self-produce and independently release this trio version of 13
    original songs. Also, the metaphor in the lyrics, about tigers and
    dragons, is from the song “Claim Your Land” which is a song
    contemplating whether or not we can truly own Mother Nature. For
    anyone who wants to check out the CD, you can find it online in all
    the normal places like iTunes, Amazon, Louisiana Music Factory,
    local record stores in the Boulder/Denver area (where I spend most
    of my year…for now) and you can stream it on the Aural Elixir
    page on the Bandcamp website.

    Peace, love & thanks for listening!

    P.S. For everyone who enjoys the Lynn/Jesse combo, we are in
    the studio today working on Lynn’s latest project, Come To My
    House, wish us luck & please consider supporting her new CD by
    visiting & sharing the link to Lynn Drury’s project on the Pledge
    Music website (also found on her FB page).