Mary Lorson and the Soubrettes’ BurnBabyBurn constitutes a balancing act between its gentle, spacious, and warm sounds and its stark, honest lyrics. This balance is even obliquely referenced in the lyrics of ‘Only One Number Two’. “You walk the roof / its what your king of / it doesn’t matter / oh yes it does / come close to me / my one and only / there is something / I need to say / you are the one / but there were others / it doesn’t matter / oh yes it does”. The grace with which Ms. Lorson manages this tension serves to remind us she is an expert songwriter.
Most songs are sparse, with banjo, organ, horns, and round, humbucking guitar to support Ms. Lorson’s vocals and piano playing. This arrangement lends itself particularly well to more solemn and sombre songs like ‘BurnBabyBurn’ and ‘Only One Number Two’. That being said, I found the most enjoyment is straight, uptempo, hummable tracks like ‘Mabcub’ and ‘Lately’. Also, anthems like ‘These Police’ allow Ms. Lorson to show off her lyrical abilities ‘Like an arm asleep / an awkward reach / between intents, a twist in meaning’.
Jazz and vaudeville influences are also present throughout, which can keep the listener slightly ill-at-ease with an otherwise very cozy album. There are several moments that the listener may not find pleasing, but those moments consistently yield to more familiar sounds.
In the end, BurnBabyBurn does what good art often does; draws you in and then surprises, provokes, gratifies you with a diverse, yet cohesive group of thoughts.
Words: Paul Kellner