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Shannon Wright

Here's the story of Shannon Wright's relatively young solo career: After her rootsy pop band Crowsdell split somewhat rancorously from its label and subsequently imploded, Wright sold her belongings and got the hell out of New York, moving to a vacant worker's house on a North Carolina farm and recording an album there alone, cut off from the outside world. And the music sounds like it. 1999's flightsafety, featuring "Rich Hum of Air," is lonely, intensely inward-looking, slightly bitter, and shockingly graceful. For the follow-up, 2000's Maps of Tacit, featuring "Dirty Facade," Wright moved to another isolated location, this time in central Alabama, to record more lovely and introspective material which is slightly more desperate and unhinged than that of the first album.

Wright played almost all the instruments on her first two records, creating a cohesive, sustained, highly personal work of baroque folk-pop. Keyboards, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond organ, and assorted strings appear throughout, giving these songs a melancholy, dirgelike, almost gothic quality. You'll hear some of the same lyrical, very Southern desperation in Cat Power, but Wright tends more toward restrained poetry than cathartic lunacy. The songs are full of soft muted colors, Wright's stark voice running through them with the cool clarity of a mountain stream. Hers is music for those quiet moments you spend getting to know yourself in the early morning hours, with the rain coming down outside your bedroom window and the rest of the world sound asleep.

That description is less applicable to Wright's third album, 2001's Dyed in the Wool, which finds her surprisingly far away from the stark, pensive fragility of her debut. Rather than playing everything herself on the new album, she recruited friends from Rachel's, The Lofty Pillars, The Boxhead Ensemble, and The Rock*A*Teens, and wound up with something surprisingly dissonant, dark, and disturbing (and sometimes reminiscent of Helium), as evidenced by the album's angry opening track, "Less Than a Moment."