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Various Artists
Treasures Left Behind: Remembering Kate Wolf
Red House Records

If lives, like movies, were accompanied by soundtracks, mine would be furnished by Kate Wolf. Not the sturm and drang--that would be courtesy of Metallica and Lou Reed, thank you--but the quiet life that has found a home here on the West Coast. The singer/songwriter's haunting lyrics and graceful tunes about the raw beauty of Northern California capture the magic of redtail hawks soaring above the brown foothills and the pungent scent of madrone in August.

The angels took Kate away much too soon for the rest of us mortals--she died in 1986 of acute leukemia. But her music lives on, influencing and inspiring another generation of musicians. Some of the best of those folks--along with some of Wolf's old friends--have gathered together to pay a tribute to the lovely artist on this CD.

A labor of love by friend, accompanist and sometime producer Nina Gerber, Treasures features artists like Nanci Griffith and Utah Phillips--to name a couple--who offer their own lovely renditions of Wolf's music.

"Give Yourself to Love," a wedding classic written by Wolf for a friend's nuptials, is paired perfectly with Kathy Mattea's rich contralto. Lucinda Williams adds the appropriate touch of melancholy to "Here in California."

As contributor Dave Alvin said, "I don't know much about Kate Wolf's life and loves, but in a few raw and tender lines, she sure knew a lot about mine." (Kelly Luker)

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The Murmurs

We've seen an explosion of baby-voiced girl bands in the past few years, and the Murmurs aren't among the best musicians, singers or lyricists of the bunch. Still, there's something irresistible about the duo--its members have a frank, wry insouciance coupled with addictive stripped-down melodies and a total lack of pretension. Ranging from the sunny power pop of "La Di Da" (about a stuck-up former friend) to the sweet pathos of "Genius" to the adolescent angst of "Misfit," the Murmurs' songs are about the everyday dramas of girls' lives. k.d. lang, the girlfriend of bandmember Leisha Hailey, produces four songs, and she lends a hint of earthy twang--though she didn't work on the one generally country tune on the album, called, appropriately, "Country Song." (Michelle Goldberg)

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Love and Death
Boojum Productions

This San Francisco quintet takes its name from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, in which Humpty Dumpty tells Alice that "outgribing is something between bellowing and whistling." Although that's a creative source, it's a terrible description of the band that offers what it aptly describes as Renaissance rock. Composed of classically trained musicians, Outgrabe merges undeniable musical skill with a combination of '60s psychedelia, dulcet folk and faerie rock. Christopher St. John's weathered voice dances with Tess O'Connor's ghostly smooth tones, giving their rich songs a magical quality. Dark topics fill the intelligently composed album, including vampires ("We Don't Die") and the end of the human race ("Under a Harvest Moon"). Seemingly influenced by Jefferson Airplane, Outgrabe likely chose its slightly cryptic name in tribute to the band infamous for "White Rabbit." (Sarah Quelland)

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From the September 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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