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Thalia Zedek
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Been Here and Gone (Matador)

Been Here and GoneBeen Here and Gone is a spooky title for a debut, but befitting of Thalia Zedek, a singer/songwriter (and damn-fine guitarist) whose tortured lyricism has touched music fans for almost two decades as the lead singer for such revered bands as Uzi, Live Skull, and most notably, the Boston-based Come. As a band leader, Zedek's powerful, baritone vocals exemplify rock and roll's uncompromising rebelliousness, effectively revealing the darkest emotions that lie beneath the surface of the blues.

As the lead singer for Come, Thalia Zedek was able to move away from Live Skull's persistent sonic foundations and explore new territory. Her songwriting became much more personal, the arrangements more complex, and found a new depth of expressiveness with equal amounts of highs and lows. Been Here and Gone maintains that depth and is the evident fruit of an experienced performer, but as it is also the result of Come's recent, indefinate hiatus, it lacks the bruising punch that her band is known for. However, the spare instrumentation found within makes for an equally powerful listening experience in its intimacy.

Accompanied by bandmates and various friends, including Come-guitarist Chris Brokaw, Zedek has compiled a collection of ballads and slow-rockers that highlight her electric and acoustic guitar arrangements with strings, piano, and even trumpet. I always described Come to friends of mine as a band whose songs sound best at 2am, when everyone's drunk, leaning agaist the bar, and staggering home. Been Here and Gone has a similar feel, but has a sound that's a little easier on the ears. The gentleness of the guitar on "Back To School" and "Temporary Guest" give way to soaring strings and tickled ivories - a haunting backdrop that reveals the edginess of Zedek's vocals.

Her solo debut contains a low-key cover or two, including Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End Of Love" and Luiz Bonfa's "Manha de Carnaval", but it's the piano-based cover of "1926" by the obscure, early-'80s New York band V that really finds Thalia Zedek at her most heart-wrenching. This moving performance at the center of the album best represents what makes Been Here and Gone so captivating: Zedek's ability to move the listener by the powerful intimacy of voice alone, without regard to the degree of instrumentation that lies beneath it. Hers is a voice that not only tugs at your heartstrings, but also tugs at the that part of your gut that contains feelings of mortal intensity. This solo recording breaks down the wall of rock riffage that once surrounded her as a bandleader, and as a result, challenges the listener to confront the depth of her expression head-on. Come fans may be disappointed with the lack of rock on Been Here and Gone, but with attentive listening, any Come fan is sure to be rewarded by Thalia Zedek's continuing exploration into deeper songwriting territory.

- SK

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