Girls in Trouble - Girls in Trouble
Record Label: JDub Records
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2009
Girls in Trouble is the nom-de-plume for Brookly multi-instrumentalist Alicia Jo Rabins, a violinist since the age of three, who at the age of 11, wrote avant-garde orchestrations by bouncing tennis balls against piano strings. Ten years later, while on a two-month sailing expedition in college, a classmate introduced her to an Appalachian fiddle and she began constructing hordes of folk songs, utilizing simple chord arrangements and drawing on bygone folktales for lyrical fodder. Landing in Jerusalem, she played her fiddle at nearby bars, and after two years in the Middle East moved to Brooklyn.
Shuffling between bands The Mammals and Underbelly, she never found a constant rhythm and spent most of her free time diving into the Old Testament, picking apart its pages and probing deeper into the stories of women in strife, women scorned and women worth celebrating. That very exercise makes up the framework for Rabins' self-titled debut, a disc recorded in the rural fields of North Carolina with analog engineer Scott Solter (Spoon, the Mountain Goats, Okkervil River). Featuring Aaron Hartman of Old Time Relijun on upright bass, Tim Monaghan on drums, and Jascha Hoffman on piano, keys and vibraphone, the self-titled disc is a forward thinking celebration that weaves deeply literate verses with symphonic arrangements. Anchored by Rabins' ornate and delicate fiddle playing, Girls in Trouble is an eye-opening collection of ten left-of-the-middle folk opuses. While said fiddle frames much of the ten songs, they are not the album's only sonic triumph. Gauzy percussion, lilting keys and the rustic comfort of an upright bass bring these songs to life in a most arresting fashion.
Opener "I Was a Desert," features some murky vocal work and at times Rabin's timbre underperforms, but the song itself is moving, funereal and triumphant. "Marble Floor," on the other hand is sparse and bare, as Rabin's vocals appear over soft guitar. "Hunter/The Bee Lays Her Honey," allows Rabins to show off her nectar-sweet vocals, artful arrangements and thought-provoking lyrics. Solter's lush production allows the ruminative subject matter to pair neatly with the experimentation resulting in a care-free, indie-folk masterpiece.
Taking a glimpse into the album's lyrical subjects, its clear as day that this is far from the formulaic drivel about love lost and love found. For example, on "Snow/Scorpions and Spiders," Rabins tells the story of insects providing solace for the leper Miriam, who also shares the burden of being Moses' sister; while in "Mountain/When My Father Came Back," an unnamed child greets his father as he returns from battle, only to find out his father is aiming to kill him. "Achey Breaky Heart," this is not. As the album rounds to a close, penultimate track, "A Lion at Rest," offers up a striking and infectious melody that cements Rabins' place as a musician worth remembering.
On paper the idea of incorporating Jewish literature, mysticism and history into a violin-laden folk project sound a bit lofty, but Rabins' talent and artistic vision comes to fruition in the most pleasant of ways. From start to finish, this is an incredibly engaging, undeniably witty musical experience. Chances are there aren't many discs more original, more thought-provoking or more eclectic released this year than this. And those very traits are what makes the 40-minute experience so incredibly pleasant.
Great review, my friend. I love the idea of taking stories from the bible, and re-telling them through song. This kind of multi-instrumental folk grew slowly on me, but it always makes me feel more intelligent for listening. Rabins's story is quite a fascinating tale. Thanks for sharing, bud!