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Album Review

Tracy Bonham, ‘Masts of Manhatta’

By Steve Morse
Globe Correspondent / July 19, 2010

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Tracy Bonham, who honed her talents locally, was lumped in with the Angry Young Women trend in the mid-’90s with the song “Mother Mother,’’ which sparked two Grammy nominations. Today, though, she has a much softer, more Norah Jones-filtered sound. She is happily married and divides her time between homes in Brooklyn and Woodstock, N.Y. She has always been a skilled composer, but while there are some great songs on “Masts of Manhatta,’’ it’s not a great album. The highlights include the jazzy folk rock of “Big Red Heart’’ and the playful “Devil’s Got Your Boyfriend,’’ spiced by the same Middle Eastern-style violin that Bonham once played on the Page & Plant tour. Other winners are the pastoral “We Moved Our City to the Country’’ and klezmer-inspired “Josephine.’’ But some songs are way too precious, namely the forced “You’re My Is-ness’’ and strangely stilted “Reciprocal Feelings.’’ It’s even too precious to title the album “Masts of Manhatta.’’ It’s taken from a poem by Walt Whitman but adds to the overly cutesy tone. There’s almost no rock edge here, and this from a woman who was once a great rock hope. (Out now)

Tracy Bonham plays at the Middle East Upstairs on Aug. 12.

Pop
Tracy Bonham, ‘Masts of Manhatta’
Engine Room Recordings
ESSENTIAL “Big Red Heart’’