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CD REVIEW: Watermelon Sugar - Something to Savor
By Chip Withrow - 05/07/2006 - 02:11 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Watermelon Sugar
Album: Something to Savor
CD Review: I can and do listen to anything and everything, but Watermelon Sugar performs the kind of music I often find myself returning to: acoustic folk, purely and cleanly played. Music that is guitar-based with sweet embellishments from other wood-and-string instruments, songs sung by joyful-yet-aching, harmonizing voices.

We’d had a long weekend of company, so I took the day off work, popped in this CD, and started cleaning up my act and our house. Then I listened to Something to Savor throughout the week to make sure it wasn’t just my Monday morning frame of mind that made me so drawn to it.

Watermelon Sugar is the duo of Hypatia Kingsley and Louise Thompson Bendall. They play almost all the instruments themselves, their voices are a natural extension of each other, and they write spare, compelling lyrics.

Something to Savor opens with the haunting yet uplifting “Knowing Jolene.” Several other songs fall into this paradoxical category: “Happiness for You,” “As Good As I Should Be.”

The lyrics to “Jolene” are beautiful and direct, and I just think it’s so cool to have a one-word line – “Simplicity” – in a song. “Trouble” is also pretty and poetic in its straightforwardness: “I still have you bouncing round in my head/And I know it’s trouble.”

The duo kicks it into fun high gear on “Republican Shocker,” “Seesaw” and “Darwin and the Prostitute.” “Seesaw” in unlike anything else on the disc: electric, pulsing, and percussive, and Bendall steps out with some funky bass work. It also has a groovy sing-along chorus.

The women air their political views on “Republican Shocker” and again on the final three songs. Those last three also show off their finely blended voices, particularly “In Common,” which has a slightly Eastern feel and the added voice of Elizabeth Freeman.

I don’t mind the anti-establishment sentiment a bit, especially since I agree with them. I particularly like the lilting, violin-laced “Republican Shocker.” Lines like “I try to keep and open mind/And I know we can be friends” and “I assumed and never thought twice/I know assuming is not nice” are ironic reminders to liberals like me that intolerance can cut both ways.

Some of Kingsley’s instrumental turns on this album are really worth mentioning: mandolin on “Jolene,” violin throughout on such tracks as “Not Going to Miss You.” And Michael Thompson adds a deft, understated dobro touch to one of my favorites, “This Bliss.”

A week after my initial listen, Something to Savor still touches me.

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