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Record Review

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Quite often, acoustic or folk music smacks of tired cliches and boring self-analysis. So it is refreshing to hear an artist who manages to create something unique while remaining true to the genre. Sue Witty is one of those rare artists. The gifted singer/songwriter generally avoids the bland Birkenstock circuit and collaborates with known rock scene ne'er-do-wells. The result is uplifting and inspirational.

Producer/guitarist Rob Gal (6X, the Coolies) plays on every track, giving the album a shimmering pop feel. The opening track, "3,000 Miles," features the omnipresent Paul Melancon singing backup to Witty's warm vocals. Gal adds fat, jazzy guitar licks that recall Elvis Costello's "Allison." Witty's winning supporting cast also includes drummer Linda Bolley (Gentle Readers, Michelle Malone) and Ryan Taylor of weaklazyliar.

Band and songwriter all mesh to perfection on the outstanding "Bottom of the Barrel." A breezy shuffle, the simple but poetic ode to self-improvement comes complete with a sly, recurring musical reference to Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay."

Yet rather than mine the tattered ol' Dylan/Baez/Mitchell songbook, Witty's style sits squarely between the divergent extremes of a slightly jaded Suzanne Vega and a holy-rolling Rickie Lee Jones. In fact, Vega gets the Witty treatment on the disc's sole cover, "Gypsy," from her crossover success, Solitude Standing.

The liner notes explain that the title Lapis Lazuli is a stone believed to carry the presence of a god. Like the titular stone, Witty's refined gem of an album contains a precious core of spirituality, presented honestly, without preaching or self-righteousness.


Sue Witty plays Enoch's Sat., July 19. $7 donation. For more info, visit www.suewitty.com.

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