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The Tacoma Weekly

July 5th, 2008

Red Lodge:

Review by
Matt Nagle

Danielle Egnew is one-woman dynamo when it comes to making music. On her 14th album, which is also her fourth solo album, she plays 25 different instruments to accompany the soul-baring poems she writes about her own personal experiences, which translate beautifully into universal experiences people from all walks of life can relate to.

Indie music fans may already be familiar with the Montana native now living in Los Angeles, as she is part of the all-female pop/rock trio Pope Jane, founded in 1995. The band earned a dedicated legion of fans that dig PJ's unique brand of groove-based hooks, rich vocal harmonies, and tremendous live performances. Their 19-track "best of" CD was recently released, and a new album titled "Tin Star Revival" is expected soon. Egnew signed with Maurice the Fish Records just this year.

On "Red Lodge" she flies solo, and this is where Egnew shines as a true artist. She takes a hearty palette of musical hues and inspired lyrics and arranges them into a painted picture with her songbird voice as the brush that somehow organizes the complex feelings, memories and desires she writes about into stories for listeners to enjoy and meditate on. The multi-award winning singer's strong voice is confident and mature, and with a feminine touch that embraces listeners with nurturing warmth.

The CD opens with Egnew at the piano for "Swinging At Nothing," in which she sings about a vibrant woman who's "got a smile you see far away" yet approaches life as if she's in a boxing ring, "a prize fighter with no title," keeping deep emotions at bay and people from getting too close to her. Wake up and she's gone. "After the sun sets, you can't keep the shadow."

Track two, "Drive and Drive," is one of those songs a person could hear over and over and still enjoy like it was the first time. The melody and lyrics unify as Engew plays acoustic guitar and mandolin and sings about something we all can relate to – that longing to get in the car and just drive away from whatever, or whomever, it is that's bringing us down. She sings, "There is a sound to my discontent/ last I heard it's where my hope went." She mixed her vocals into rich background harmonies for the chorus: "Drive and drive to the break of day/ I know if I could just get away I won't lose my mind this time."

On "Still Town" Egnew plays a wide set of instruments: acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass, castinets, percussion on her lap, claves, guiro, fingersnaps, and a cardboard box. It's an upbeat song about the songwriter's musings in a little town among "smells of sandalwood and incense from the only store in town."

Having released four instrumental meditation albums among her repertoire, Egnew offers traditional Native American music in the song "Beartooth Medicine." Keeping time with a Chumash tribal drum and shaker, Egnew plays a lovely tune on the recorder flute, with a slight shimmer of jingle bells and tambourine adding a crisp complement to the thumping drumline. For "I Won't Be Back," Egnew plays only the bass and sings softly - unusual and delightful, with her own voice layered in harmonies. On "Story of My Life" she plays just the mandolin. She's a virtuoso indeed.

Egnew plays the Tempest Lounge July 9, the Mandolin Café July 10, and headlines Out in the Park in Tacoma July 12.

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