Consumer Guide Album
Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man: Out of Season [Sanctuary, 2003]
No longer deploying dolor for art points, Gibbons takes her aestheticism up an order of difficulty. From tasteful simplicity to dramatic vibrato to cracked slur to Badu-does-Holiday to "water-coloured memories/Soft as a summer breeze" to precision whisper to country-soul sincerity to loose-whisper-gets-busy to frail-drawl-achieves-grandeur to filtered weirdness to total mannered live bollocks of "Candy Says," she and her hands-on arranger achieve whatever dramatic perspective they map out. But to what end? Gibbons's failure to leave the likes of "And I only hear/Only hear the rain" and "Time is but a memory" in her notebook suggests one limitation of her songcraft. But the selling point for her admirers is the deal breaker for me: a hard-earned refinement that by the nature of its ambition claims more universality than it has any right to.