I'll Ask Her
Alison Pipitone I'll Ask Her Slice Records by Samuel L. Wereb for rockzilla.net Alison Pipitone writes poetry that rocks. She's one part cover girl, two parts Springsteen, one part Liz Phair and a bucket-full of Kurt Cobain. Blended together with a whiskey-laced voice, she's a powerful concoction of lyric-driven, folky alternative rock with sharp, 100-proof melodies and scorching full-on performances. I'll Ask Her is her fifth record and it is a significant departure from her previous work. This one is completely stripped down to just her vocals and acoustic guitar and it features contemplative, introspective songwriting for somewhat quieter moments. It's her Nebraska, and I'll Ask Her is meant to play on the rhyme. Even the cover photo of a bleak Buffalo streetscape harkens back to it. Ironically, this is an artist who has those highly coveted right-now pop songstress looks, but she doesn't show the slightest glimpse of them on this CD. She seems to have set aside her outward looks and expressions and turned entirely inward. This is a very fine record, which may reach a wider audience than her previous Grrrl-rock recordings. There is some superb songwriting here. Pipitone played more than 150 dates in 2002, and those who only know her live or by her previous releases may not immediately get this one. She is a complicated, enigmatic artist, and analyzing most of her lyrics is way above my pay grade. Still, like the best songwriters, when she wants to make imagery perfectly clear she makes it look easy. '1969 Cobalt Blue Camaro' is a good example. It immediately evokes some of the best Simon and Garfunkel ballads or Bruce Springsteen nostalgia. Stripped down like this she sounds a little like Lucinda Williams, an artist she admires. Other times she's more playful and romantic, like Liz Phair sans the overt sexual content. She has a full, robust voice, and the whole record is done with about twice Lucinda's talent and maybe one-tenth of Phair's typical budget. The rest of the album is romantic, complex, and a little melancholy, containing devotional love songs and nostalgic reminiscences of her childhood. 'Bring It On' is a semi-autobiographical adolescent anthem told in another's voice. Springsteen used to do this stuff. Only he doesn't f*** with the listener's head like she does or Cobain did. 'I Am Not Yours' is so ardent and searingly good it sounds like it was stolen from Cobain's estate. There are a lot of different styles in here and they all work. 'Secret Lover' could have been one of those lost songs Steve Earle says he sold for dope. She's that good. Alison Pipitone is on her way to becoming a star. She sings with charm, vim, and vitriol; lightning in a bottle, basically. She's a top-flight songwriter with a wicked vocal left-hook and serious attitude. Her earlier records are damned good, too. Don't pass them up if you like smart alternative rock, sung like Hell-on-wheels.