Review: 'Chilly': Schizophrenic but with nice moments

"Various artists" compilations have their place, as several excellent local ones -- "Duluth Does Dylan" and discs from KUMD and the Brewhouse spring to mind -- have proven.

"Various artists" compilations have their place, as several excellent local ones -- "Duluth Does Dylan" and discs from KUMD and the Brewhouse spring to mind -- have proven.

They also have their challenges. While it's not everything, I think success has something to do with what holds these projects together. With the Dylan disc, you had the music of Bob Dylan as the common thread running through a wide range of styles. With others you have a venue in common, or a level of accomplishment, or a musical style.

"Chilly Northern Women," under the auspices of Spinout Records, the same folks who brought us "Duluth Does Dylan," rallies around only this: it contains women musicians who have played in Duluth.

For starters, that's been a little controversial. I'm not picking sides, but some women musicians who have been around Duluth a long time and were not included had their own concert a couple of weeks ago in response. Some of the groups which were included have, say, three men and one woman who's the lead singer.

But more to the point, it's a thin connection for a compilation CD.


The range in styles and quality leaves something disquieting when you view "Chilly" as a whole. Some of the styles are so extreme they seem almost mutually exclusive in appeal. I mean, can even an eclectic listener move comfortably from the heartfelt folk of Haley Bonar on the first track and the nice, mellow rock groove of Amy Abst & the State Champs on the second to the distorted, pounding punk -- complete with blunt sexual references and profanity -- of The Horribles on the third?

So that's one way of looking at it -- seeing the forest for the trees, I suppose. When you look at the trees themselves, the individual tracks, a different picture emerges, because many of them are good.

Gild sounds strong on "Firefly" even without the DJ/rap component it had for many years. Jen Jones sounds as good as ever, and Tim Nelson continues to put his usual funky spin in his guitar parts.

Kill Conformity, a power trio led by Angela Lindberg on guitar and vocals, rocks with "Headless 85," showing a distinct Green Day influence.

One of the best songs on the disc is "Long Drive" by Sara Softich, who sings and plays accoustic guitar and fiddle. She's got a nice voice and uses the break in it nicely.

Mary Bue plays piano and does vocals, sounding a little like Sarah McLachlan in her strong voice.

Bonar's voice and songwriting are both solid and highly listenable.

Heidi Bakk-Hansen's spoken word piece, "A Song to You," is way more than the Beatnik wannabe sound you might expect if your exposure to the genre is limited to TV commercials. The writing is good, funny, sometimes sexy and full of surprises, if also occasionally weird.


Jerree Small gets a ton out of her voice with a lot of musical nuance. The Psychelicates -- great name -- have a cool synth sound, making the "chilly" title especially appropriate for the two women doing vocals.

Three bands show a real punk influence, The Horribles, Jackie and the Ripoffs and The Keep Aways. The Keep Aways, a three-woman power trio comes off best with "Intimidated." While all three groups sound somewhat derivative, this one's spunk and attitude somehow work better than the sheer rage of Jackie and the three-woman parental warning of The Horribles, another power trio.

The bottom line is, the disc as a whole is kind of schizophrenic, but a lot of what's on it is pretty good.


The CD: "Chilly Northern Women"

Artist: Various artists

Recommendation: This disc has some really good tracks and some really not-so-good tracks, and little to hold them together.

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