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Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause - The Rustic Contemporary Sounds of Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause

Released on International Hits, 1/22/08

On her MySpace page, Anna Kramer’s music (which is sometimes a solo project, sometimes a collaboration) is described as a “frayed jangle and twang meets country and rock and roll,” and it’s claimed she “struts a distinctive rock walk that transcends the singer/songwriter ghetto.” All of these claims are true, though they are somewhat misleading. Yes, the sounds are at once rustic and contemporary, but unfortunately, no freshness is brought to the table with the combination.

What Anna does seem to do is genre-hop without ever really mastering one over the other. The opening track, “All Those Pretty Things", almost sounds like a Donnas tune, if the Donnas came from Nashville. With lines like “I don’t need you to call me, but I want you tell me that you love me, I don’t need you to want me, but I want you to tell me that you need me,” on top of simple guitar riffs and a heavy beat, it straddles the border of girl rock/punk. The following track, “Got My Feet on the Ground", follows in spirit with “Got my feet on the ground and I’m standing on my own, I don’t need no one,” but with more country twang and less Brett Anderson.

Much of the remaining tracks lean more towards the country “jangle and twang,” spectrum, but they never quite seem to take. “Death Comes Knocking at My Door,” sounds like an old American folk tune, but one sung by camp children. With a banjo and an organ in constant accompaniment, Anna sings, or rather half shouts in a monotone, forced accent that sounds more ridiculous than authentic (my pardon if it is actually authentic). With lyrics like “death comes knocking at my door, now I feel different than I did before. Saw a woman in bed with a hole in her head,” I find it difficult to take it seriously and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to.

“Piano Nuggets,” a 36-second piano interlude in the middle of the album also sounds like a child at a beginning piano recital; I’m not really sure why it’s there. After dabbling a bit more in other sounds (“Da Da Rock” sounds like it’s trying to be a hard rock number, while “Yo Quiero Estar” channels a Latin beat), the album really only hits its stride with one of the last few numbers, “The Wake", a duet with the achingly slow country sounds of Lucinda Williams. But after jumping from one sound to another, it still somehow doesn’t ring true.

Maybe if she had stuck with one idea, rather than trying everything, it would have felt more authentic. As is, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, just in a slightly odd combo. It’s not terrible, but it’s not really good either. I wouldn’t give her up as a lost cause yet, but I’m not going to hold my breath until the next album.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars