Half Man Half Woman Review


April 30, 2010

SOMEWHERE between her commercial high with It’s Only the Beginning and a baffling electronic experiment called Ultrasound, mercurial indie diva Deborah Conway left compromise in a ditch.

This is her ninth studio album (under numerous guises) with husband Willy Zygier, and from his jaunty Wes Montgomery-styled instrumental overture to a charming banjo lullaby featuring their three daughters, it fairly saunters with a relaxed resolve to be whatever it wants to be.

The tone is mostly set by Zygier’s smiling feel for acoustic strings of all stripes: Somewhere Different and Chromatic Jew are dappled country folk; Agar Rag drips with sepia; a woody mandolin and muted Salvation Army band flavour the contented domestic waltz, Cul De Sac.

There’s tougher stuff too: Take Pity on the Beast is intense, existential blues that nearly overcooks in eight minutes of biblical allegory but the tonally challenging gutbucket swing of Spoken Like a Man may be the highlight.

Far from chasing pop currency, it’s mainly the sweet air of another century that pervades here. But it’s their parlour and, clearly, nobody tells them how to decorate.

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