Dear Nora Mountain Rock

[Magic Marker; 2004]

Styles: nature folk, four-track singer/songwriter
Others: Elliott Smith, Wolf Colonel/Jason Anderson, Carole King

Nostalgia is all the rage lately, and I'm not talking the Fonz. For whatever reason, marketers have decided that kids should be really into times long past. All things considered, though, growing up in middle America was, to be frank, really lame. As the country settled into Full House reruns with the Olsen twins' anorexia only 90% likely, the suburbs were a trap of bigger Wal-Marts and praised mediocrity. Once you break out the slap-bracelets, though, those static notions are apparently long gone.

Where everyone else seems to shy away from the sour memories, Dear Nora's unlikely folkster Katy Davidson reminds us how awkward and unsure those times actually were. Like VH-1, Davidson's content is steeped in memories, but the roadways of her days gone by are unclogged by the hindsight that many seem to mistake for easier times. Where many songwriters opt for the purely emotional or the purely disaffected, Davidson attains a middle ground that gives a modest voice to what we can all learn from our past.

As good songwriting has taught us, all good introspection needs a vehicle, and for Davidson, it appears a long hike up a tall peak served as the right inspiration, as Mountain Rock is steeped in natural and rocky imagery. As the album's title suggests, it was the peak of the summit that conjured the most vivid reflections, and the metaphor she draws from the cliffs are unique in their connection between physical things and emotions: "And I sensed the change in it/ it loomed like a curse/ and I thought of it as a mountain there/ thought of it as a lonesome border." Other characters, such as caribou, timberwolves, and bears seemed to have provided a window on her thoughts.

Musically, the album is equally modest, sticking mostly to voice and guitar. As on past releases, Davidson's clear, unwavering alto provides the perfect medium for the many clever lyrical lines sure to come around. Production is sparse, but she has an innate sense on where to insert overdubs or her classic vocal reverb, which is given gorge-like dimensions here given the theme of the record.

Her pop sensibilities are equally in play, but, as she appears to be exploring events with more complexity, Davidson seems to be shying away from the blatant jangle of her earlier work. "Give Me Some of Yr Love" is the only remnant of that sound exhibited. With a sudden end, though, it is cast off as a memory, only to give further voice to the temptation to return to the past, and the undesirable memories often found there.

1. The Lonesome Border, Pt. 1
2. Living Song
3. Loose
4. Hung Up
5. Here We Come Around
6. The Climb Up
7. Mountain Rock
8. Departure Song
9. Make It Real
10. Caribou, Timberwolf
11. Give Me Some of Yr Love
12. West Nile!!
13. You Are a Bear (For a New Friend)
14. Oxygen & The Mellow Stuff
15. People, Don't You Know??
16. Suicide Song Down