Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Deliciously Tense

By Michael Henningsen

JUNE 1, 1999:  There's something about the way Jill Cohn sings that makes whatever her subject matter is seem sacred. There's virtually nothing that escapes her songwriter's pen. From love and loss to the persistence of hope, Cohn brings a crystalline clarity to everything that moves her. Her voice is as vast as the Great Northwest, which she calls home. The Seattle-based singer-songwriter has spent much of the past four years touring independently on the strength of three critically acclaimed solo albums. Her fourth, the ironically titled The Absence of Moving (Box o' Beanies), is her strongest yet.

Frequently compared to Tori Amos, Paula Cole and various Lilith-ites, Cohn is far too entrenched in her own identity to bow to such parallels. She is a fine pianist, and her voice is delightfully lofty, but Cohn's songs are uniquely her own. While her earlier work was largely piano-based (hence the Amos connection), her latest and its predecessor, Stories from the Blue Bus (Box o' Beanies), are both marked by the more frequent inclusion of thoughtful guitar, drums and acoustic bass. By broadening her palette gradually with more richly arranged instrumentation, Cohn has successfully allowed her music to evolve naturally, by turns allowing her voice room to move.

And move it does, gracefully transitioning between a gentle whisper and a commanding soprano. Cohn's songs are less like snapshots of her psyche than they are Super 8 home movies documenting her various passions and experiences. Lyrically, too, she shines. Her words shimmer magically, levitating ever so slightly above her well-constructed melodies, just enough to create the kind of deliciously nervous tension that keeps lovers enthralled. With simple grace and overwhelming charm, Jill Cohn adds a fresh twist to singer-songwriter folk-rock that has rarely been seen this side of Joni Mitchell. She's not someone you can afford to pass up.


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