Exene Cervenka, legendary punk singer and former X frontwoman, has dabbled in acoustic music since the late ‘80s, but Somewhere Gone, her debut for the Bloodshot label, is something of a departure. Opener “Trojan Horse” bristles with a fiery punk energy, with Cervenka furiously strumming a three-chord manifesto, but much of the record skews into more restrained Americana territory. It’s a style that suits Cervenka with mixed results. On cuts like the foreboding “Surface of the Sun” and the brief “Why Is It So,” she demonstrates a real economy of language in her songwriting that is well matched to the album’s occasional country and folk flourishes. Backed by the late Amy Farris, a fixture on the Austin music scene whose fiddling and backing vocals have highlighted albums by Alejandro Escovedo and Kelly Willis, Cervenka even does a terrific cover of the standard “The Willow Tree” that is more spirited than the more understated version on Rosanne Cash’s The List. It’s when her songwriting skews toward the verbose (“Insane Thing” opens with the awful, overwritten couplet “Exotic free-fall into a glass of wine/Precarious pit-stop in the Land of Nod”) that it sounds like she’s competing with the record’s stripped-down aesthetic. Fortunately, Cervenka edits herself well on much the album, making Somewhere Gone a promising start to a new direction in her already storied career.
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