Picks and Pans Review: Attainable Love

updated 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Christine Lavin

One of the virtues of such young neofolkie stars as Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman and Michelle Shocked is that they cast some reflected light on the veterans of their genre. Lavin, 38, is a prime case in point.

As this album shows, she is a slyly witty songwriter who seems to have undergone an irony-lift. The marvelous title song, about men who become obsessed with the images of actresses and models so they won't have to deal with real women, is calculated to make commitmentphobes squirm. Such a man, Lavin sings, avoids love because he's "afraid it will envelop him/ Swallow him up."

Then, just to show that she's not the female equivalent of misogynistic, Lavin, writing with John Gorka, salutes her more enlightened contemporaries of the opposite gender in "Sensitive New Age Guys." Backed by a nine-man ad hoc choral group (including hit jingle writers David Buskin and Robin Batteau), she sings her paean to the kind of man "who likes to cry at weddings/ Who thinks Rumbo is upsetting/ Who believes us when we say we have premenstrual syndrome/ Who doesn't know who plays in the Seattle Kingdome."

Lavin can rock a little too. "Victim/Volunteer," which explores the self-immolatory aspects of romance, charges along quite nicely. And for ballad fans, "The Kind of Love You Never Recover From" seems to almost border on flat-out sincere emotion.

It's as semidetached observer that Lavin is most striking though. If we could get her and Loudon Wainwright III named our national folk music laureates, we'd have most of the country's problems accurately described, if not solved, in no time. (Philo/Rounder)

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