Mary Bue’s “Apple in the Ocean” is poetic and distinctive

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“Thought you’d be in Cosmopolitan by now/ Thought you’d have the hottest legs through the turnstile.” The Good Fairy has at least given this reviewer a break, in the form of a strong lyricist who is gracious enough to provide the words to an album. That’d be one remarkably sardonic Mary Bue, with an ear for tight melody and a voice that, while not extraordinary, indeed gets the job done in distinctive fashion.

There’s a hint of Sarah McLachlan here, but Bue is by no means anybody’s copy cat. She’s definitely got her own way of doing things. And, for that matter, is more consistently on the mark than McLachlan, who when she hits is really on and when she misses is flat-out boring. There’s also a touch of Pieta Brown, only without the cloying self-consciousness. Bottom line, Mary Bue plies her craft with authority and a fresh presence.

That quote is from “Cosmopolitan” off her new album Apple in the Ocean, which kicked off with a release thing at the Turf Club in St. Paul on August 19. It’s her fourth full-length disc, so by now she’s likely gained enough of following that the event went down just great.

“You can’t relate to your fellow peers/ They all look at you really weird/ and you think it’s rather queer/ and you wonder what you’re doing here/ and everyone you meet/ has their face on late night TV/ skinny chicks playing piano/ red-stained lips walking down the street.” That’s more from “Cosmopolitan,” a fine example of the CDs overall far-from-sentimental sensibility.

Even in the soft moments, Bue has a bitter way about her. Take “Mummies,” plaintively intoning, “Ghosts, only ghosts/ the lovers sit in empty rooms/ Storms have stormed/ Volcanoes blue/ and lovers mummified as spoons.” Quite a gift for imagery. She can also write pretty good existential poetry—no mean feat. For instance, “Maps and Calendars”: “Maps and calendars/ Aladdin’s lamps, man-handlers/ tickets and transfers/ we’re full of these desperate measures/ in no uncertain terms/ I’m a serious girl.”

The musicians are Bue on piano, Matt Mosley on bass, and Dave Frankenfeld on drums with Ida Jo on violin and a handful of guitar players (Bue on the song “Little Bird” with veteran notable Charlie Parr on slide) sitting in. It’s produced by Eric Swenson and Bue.

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