lori cullen Uneven Hill (www.loricullen.com) Rating: NNNN
Simultaneously lush and fragile, local folk-popster Lori Cullen's terribly pretty sophomore release establishes her as a poetic singer/songwriter in the vein of Joni Mitchell. Yeah, her lyrics probe the emotions-beyond-language territory of, say, Blue or A Case Of You, but it's really Cullen's vocal technique that reveals her debt to the Mitchell of yore. Over sophisticated arrangements shored up by Toronto talents like horn player Sarah McElcheran and pedal steel man Tim Bovaconti, Cullen wields her voice with careful deliberation, like an instrument that soars and wavers. Her original tunes are quite good, and the three-part choral harmony on trad standard In The Gloaming is lovely. Lori Cullen launches Uneven Hill at Hugh's Room tonight (Thursday, March 11).