Mia Doi Todd Manzanita

With a sensuous husky voice and sparse acoustic work, Mia Doi Todd has created a charming, but sometimes flawed album. Manzanita is all about Doi Todd’s voice, and it is certainly a formidable instrument with a tone that moves between British folkie Sandy Denny and Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins. In fact, "The Way,” which is one of the loudest and strongest numbers, brings to mind that classic J. Mascis-penned Cowboy Junkies song, "The Post.” She also gives into a reggae experiment, "Casa Nova,” which unfortunately sticks out like a sort thumb and is probably best avoided. But Chris Gunst and Dave Scherr give a pseudo-Beachwood Sparks reunion by helping with the country-tinged "What If We Do?” Really, though, the real charm of this album comes in the songs where her voice is forefront with only the simplest of accompaniment. Both "My Room Is White” and "I Gave You My Home” work best because they allow that muscular alto voice to fully express the required emotions without the distraction of the confines of a certain genre. In business, the term that companies use to slim down is to "stick to their knitting”, and Manzanita is fullest when your stereo contains just Doi Todd’s lush, hypnotic voice with the lone, echoed guitar pluck of a steady beat. (Plug Research)