Mary Lou Lord once told a little white lie in a song, and it has led to some wrong impressions. In "His Indie World," the Boston-based singer/songwriter made gentle fun of underground fan-boys with lists of obscure bands for vocabularies. In contrast, she embraced "my Joni, my Nick, Neil and Bob," suggesting a classicist's and a stereotypical girl's limited repertoire. In fact, Lord is as much a record nerd as any dude in a faded SLINT T-shirt; she's the muso's muse, whose devotion to her favorite songwriters seemed to be one reason so few of her originals made it onto her set lists. Her sparse output left fans restless to hear her realize her own potential.
Got No Shadow fulfills their expectations with cunning modesty. Instead of going grandiose for this major-label debut, Lord takes a humble approach honed on subway platforms, where travelers had only a minute to listen. Busking taught Lord to seek depth in the ephemeral the resonant casual observation, the melody that sticks in your head like gum on your shoe. Her summery folk pop stays grounded in her trusty acoustic guitar, although it's polished up enough here to evoke a whole line of wide-eyed wise girls, from Lesley Gore to the Bangles and Lord's own mentor, Shawn Colvin. The stories she tells trace a path through a busy world unaware of its own profundities. She shares them inconspicuously, her breezy voice marked with the patience of a quiet friend whose insights are ignored at first but linger.
Songs that Lord wrote herself or with the Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman define Got No Shadow's itinerant vision. "Western Union Desperate" is a rover's bid for lasting love; "His Lamest Flame" wryly assesses a one-night stand. "Seven Sisters" revisits the Pogues' "The Old Main Drag" through the eyes of a "bad girl" stuck there. This and many other nods to pop history, including some artfully chosen covers, reiterate the singer's exquisite taste. But Got No Shadow's real story is the one Lord tells alone, about a woman settling into herself. (RS 778)
(Posted: Jan 22, 1998)
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