One of the leading lights in the ’80s folk revival, Christine Lavin applies an incisive, self-aware wit and a confidently absurdist view of modern relationships and life in the big city (New York) to acoustic music. Sung in a clear, sweet voice (think of early Joni Mitchell), her songs address microcosmic issues more than matters of war or world extinction. As a result, there’s something disconcertingly yuppiesque about Lavin’s adult work; it doesn’t ruin the fun, but it does draw a clear distinction between tradition-minded folk music and wry intellectual observations presented in a folk music setting.
Future Fossils, a spare live-in-the-studio effort with little accompaniment save Lavin’s guitar, takes itself seriously once too often (“The Dakota,” about John Lennon; “Damaged Goods”) but otherwise offers such cleverness as “Don’t Ever Call Your Sweetheart by His Name,” “Cold Pizza for Breakfast,” “Artificial Means” (about sex aids) and “Regretting What I Said… (A Musical Apology).” A promising introduction.
Although the credits on Beau Woes suggest Phil Spector-scale production, what turns out to be delicate accompaniment politely serves Lavin’s creations, adding a little swing without intruding. Indicative of her broad scope, the obvious (“Biological Time Bomb,” “Roses From the Wrong Man” and “Summer Weddings”) is joined by the offbeat, e.g., “Air Conditioner,” “Ballad of a Ballgame” (complete with harp and several dozen backup vocalists) and the regal jealousy of “Prince Charles.” Demonstrating an active musical imagination to match her clever words, Lavin grafts together two oldies — “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “A Summer Song” — to brilliant and beautiful effect.
The seven songs on Another Woman’s Man were actually recorded — with an electric bassist and percussionist — before the other two records but not issued until 1987. The writing here lacks her razor-sharp wit and tends toward maudlin sentiment (“If You Want Space, Go to Utah” is typical), but Lavin’s music remains warm and pure, her vocals strong and sure.