Martha Scanlan The West Was Burning

Martha Scanlan is formerly of the Reeltime Travelers, and currently of "me, myself and I.” Her solo album from Sugarhill Records puts her out in the middle of the open west, just her, her guitar and a recording studio to capture it all. You have to love less-than-sweet vocals to love this album — Scanlan’s voice dips, twitters and squeaks its way through her powerful words, a vehicle for her lyrics if not possessed of a pleasant musical timbre. But at the same time, there is a road worn sound that fits well with her stories of long, dusty travels. The songs are sweet and lyrical, with common themes of journeys, both physical and spiritual. Some of the more upbeat tunes lose her faint voice in their motion but she makes a wonderful push with the refreshingly gospel "Get Right Church,” rocking out more and drawing power from a deeper place in her, and our, guts than anywhere else on the album. The true beauty lies in tunes like "Ten Thousand Charms,” a simple guitar and vocal duet that capitalises on the simplicity of delivery and vibrates with rich feeling, letting the poetry and music come together in the wide-open spaces she creates. (Sugar Hill)