Beth Thornley - My Glass Eye 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by John Sutton-Smith   
Friday, 01 December 2006

format:    16-bit CD
performance:    8
sound:    7
release year:    2006
label:    Stiff Hips
reviewed by:    John Sutton-Smith

Beth Thornley is near the front of a female singer/songwriter renaissance, from Beth Orton and Fiona Apple to Katie Melua and Thea Gilmore and many others, whose singular writing craft and sensibility is matched only by their unique and very personal points of view and their compelling sense of drama and delivery.

Following her highly-acclaimed 2002 self-titled, self-released debut, the Alabama-born Los Angeles-based Thornley’s songs have been featured in a wide variety of television and film projects, including “Scrubs,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “Roswell,” and can be heard on episodes of “The Chris Isaak Show” and “Emily,” among others on an impressive list.

Thornley’s long-awaited follow-up, My Glass Eye is another tantalizing excursion of intoxicating tales from the adventurous songwriter that range from the opening statement of intent on “Stand” to the ragged insouciance of “Mr. Lovely,” through the lyrical panache of “Double Wide” and the down-home Americana of “Home By Now,” to the image-laden “Once,” perhaps the strongest song on the album.

With lightning turns of phrase and a stylistic scope that allows for folk
and country-tinged ballads, both plaintive and personal – a touch of Tom Waits here, a wisp of Kate Bush there – to upbeat dramatic attitude and snarl, with even a dash of Chrissie Hynde, Thornley’s songs are full of musical body and heft, lyrical soul and impressive style.

At times, these oddball stories of life and love and details of the heart become deeply affecting, deftly turning on a vivid metaphor or allowing her vocal style to keenly dramatize each song, giving them a richness of breadth and dimension. The cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is slower and if anything even more of a lament, showing off Thornley’s own tales even more clearly in relief. My Glass Eye indeed proves Thornley to be one of the best in a very exciting new generation of singer/songwriters.

Sound
The album is wildly diverse musically, from up-tempo and country-tinged rock to introspective pop, and some engaging, even experimental, quirks in between. She’s backed by multi-instrumentalist and producer Rob Cairns, along with occasional guitar from Rob Disner and other assorted instrumentation, judiciously selected and arranged around Thornley’s striking delivery.

Cairns manages to capture Thornley’s ironic sensibility and is sympathetic in his choices of the occasional cello, whistle or strings. On tracks like the anthemic “Stand,” however, the energizing opener, Cairn allows the band to open up, and again on “Mr. Lovely” and “Bound,” they respond with tight, crisp accompaniment that adds a rock bottom to Thornley’s vocal edge.







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