Masts of Manhatta
After listening to opener “Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend,” I was hooked on Tracy Bonham’s latest album, Masts of Manhatta. The Bohemian-sounding mix of violin and hand drums, in concert with Bonham’s earthy voice and the story-lyrics, is enough to suck you in and not spit you back out till the CD is over. This tune is not indicative of the album, however—in fact, I would be hard-pressed to define it as a whole with any one word or description. “Big Red Heart” is a hearty, almost-rock song, while “We Moved Our City to the Country” is more country and “Reciprocal Feelings” is just Bonham, her piano and violin. She’s backed up on other tracks by the talented Smokey Hormel (Tom Waits, Beck) and his trio. The classically trained Bonham seems finally comfortable to be herself with this, her fourth full-length album. She’s clearly lightened up, all the angst we remember from 1996’s “Mother Mother” channeled instead into songs about love, the road and trying in vain to escape big-city life. North Staters will particularly identify with “In the Moonlight,” a light, sweet, folky song about a road trip up I-5: “When we got to Mount Shasta, we had to stop/ and anthropomorphize the mountain/ She looked so pretty, steady and strong/ standing alone in her nighty/ talking to God/ And she glowed in the moonlight …” It’s a perfect example of Bonham’s ability to write beautiful, catchy lyrics that are anything but cliché.