JENNY ALLEN plays a slew of Toronto shows: at the Dakota (May 27), the Old Nick (May 30), Not My Dog (May 31) and Slacks Bar (June 2). Rating: NNN
Washboard-toting folk festival regular Jenny Allen returns to her solo career with a third album after years of recording and touring with Calgary-based trio the Fates. Allen's first album, 1991's Something To Say, was produced by Canadian folk icon Valdy, and she has opened for Taj Mahal and Shawn Colvin.
Blanket sees Allen collaborating with producer/multi-instrumentalist John Ellis (Be Good Tanyas, Jane Siberry) and Dirty Laundry tour-mate Leslie Alexander on backup vocals, as well as rhythm section Pat Steward and Rob Becker.
Allen's voice is versatile - smooth and soft one song, poppy and tough the next. The overall mood of heartbreak and aging can get tiring - be prepared for too many conversational breakup songs. That said, nostalgia feels good on title track Blanket, and Allen nails a funny country attack on barflies on Face The Music. Quiet In Here's a singalong slow dance, and closer A Simple Word offers satisfying blues.
Top track: Blanket