Dog in the Manger
Mesmerizing is the word being used to describe the evocative, groove-based, sound of Los Angeles based artist Jhene Erwin. Lush vocals, and intensely visual lyrics with surging hip-hop/electronica beats, and layered soundscape loops provide a compelling sound track for her provocative poetic work, 'Dog and the Manger.' While enjoying a successful career as an actor in Canada, Jhene began writing poetry when living in the 'red light,' district of Toronto. The poetry evolved into the collection, 'Dog in the Manger.' In 'Dog in the Manger,' Erwin combines the reality of the people and events that she witnessed at that time, with her own personal experiences. Part reality, part fiction, part autobiography Erwin creates an intense world inhabited by undeniable characters whose primary struggle is to find their own sense of humanity and dignity. With the poetry complete, Erwin turned to the music. Her obsessive determination to find the right sound led her to compose and record the entire album on her own. She went to work in August of 2002, by December of the same year she began gigging in LA clubs with a set that is tight and commanding. Described as a combination of Portishead, Bjork and Leonard Cohen, set in a Twin Peaks sense of reality, the response to Erwin's work has been phenomenal. One listener went as far as to describe her as 'the Ferlinghetti for this epoch,' in music. JHENE ERWIN'S DOG IN THE MANGER Review by: Lisa Zugschwerdt 'In a society that increasingly thrives on cultural alienation and voyeurism, the idea of developing a sense of empathy by exploring the common roots of human tragedy, loss, and addiction is not only an innovation, it's a radical anomaly -- and it's going on right here in Hollywood, CA. ...how does one describe a show whose songs, medium, and theme blur the distinction between lyrics and poetry, the electronic and the organic, voyeurism and experience? Once you've seen Dog in the Manger, it's not surprising to learn that Erwin has a background in acting - she pretty much channels the souls of the flawed street-walkers who roam the terrain of each song like it was a stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. One is struck by Erwin's haunting intensity as her demeanor shifts seamlessly from the self-deprecating pill-popper in 'He Doesn't Know How Old I Feel' to the sardonic seductress in 'I Loved You;' from the sultry, detached heroine junky who unapologetically narrates her own story in 3rd person on 'Blue' to the angry, shrieking, ramblings of a woman over the edge in 'Not the First Time. At the close of each song Erwin stands solitary at center stage, her cropped hair tousled and illuminated in a red haze, staring into the audience with a defiant complexity that would give Sybil chills. With her beauty and striking presence, one can't help but wonder what a woman like Erwin, who exudes such personal radiance, could possibly know of such tragedy. I suppose the artist herself answers this question in the autobiographical final verses of 'Family Tree:' Now every time I see someone and I find myself thanking god it's not me -- I...look in their eyes and I remember the rings of our family tree. In the end, we're left with the realization that these characters are desperate to feel something, and to be healed -- and with the lingering suspicion that perhaps as a culture, we may have more in common with these women than we'd like to admit.' Lisa Zugschwerdt ____.