Picks and Pans Review: By 7:30
Poor thing. If this album were a message in a bottle, it would read: "Help me, Vonda." Like the title character in her friend David E. Kelley's Ally McBeal TV show, Shepard is deeply into self-confession. She also appears to be a woman of unrealistic hopes, as she suggests in the title track of this, her followup to last year's Songs from Ally McBeal: "By 7:30," she sings forlornly, "fall in love with me." Other tunes tell of personal struggles. In "Mercy," it is low self-esteem ("I feel like a can, kick myself down the street") and in "Venus Is Breaking," we hear about unrequited love—in Shepard's down-at-the-mouth world, there seems to be no other kind. As she succinctly puts it in an inadvertently comic phrase: "I'm in love with this man and I feel so lame..." Even lamer, she grabs awkwardly at New Age straws: "If I can only feel my bliss," she sings in "Clear." Shepard sings with folksy passion, and the piano and guitar arrangements mark an improvement over her last album. Unfortunately, By 7:30 abounds with so many wacky lyric constructions ("there was a red flag waving in my ears"), you may miss the rare moments when Shepard does stop navel-gazing. Consider the welcome touch of wit she provides on "Confetti," a tune about kids with 14-karat nose rings: "The children of elite/ Tryin' to be street."
Bottom Line: Glum going