Picks and Pans Review: Plumb

updated 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jonatha Brooke & the Story

The most heartfelt, penetrating music can often be found off pop's well-beaten path. Such is the case with this lovely pair of releases from these obscure but abundantly gifted singer-songwriters. Cole, a native of East Moline, Ill., wields a soothing, inventive melodicism that suggests a cross between Paul Simon and Crowded House. His lyrics are full of poetic ponderings: "The past is a foreign country/ At the dark end of the hall/ And the morning is an offering/ To the shelter of the day/ But the violent come/ And they bury it away." When you combine those components with Cole's breathy, lonesome voice, it makes for captivating songs like "Believe in You," "Lowlife" and "Take the Reins." I Don't Know Why I Act This Way (Island) has a seasoned, sophisticated quality that wasn't hinted at on Cole's three previous releases.

Brooke, a by-product of Boston, also takes a creative leap forward on her new collection. (On her two previous releases, she worked as half of a duet known as the Story.) Her style suggests Carole King imbued with avant-garde sensibilities. On Plumb (Blue Thumb), Brooke glides through poignant, multifaceted songs with her sweet, insinuating voice. The effect, on limpid compositions such as "Nothing Sacred" and "Inconsolable," is both ravishing and heartbreakingly sad.

Wan and winning, these two albums stand in stark relief to much of today's pop music, like a pair of gentle watercolors in a gallery full of robust oil paintings.

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