Garrison Starr has hit the road supporting Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Melissa Etheridge. No surprise, then, that she’s learned a thing or two about crafting a story. Starr regularly pinches a sleight of hand or passing sound bite and turns it into a rich character assessment
Garrison Starr has hit the road supporting Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Melissa Etheridge. No surprise, then, that she’s learned a thing or two about crafting a story. Starr regularly pinches a sleight of hand or passing sound bite and turns it into a rich character assessment. Take her sharp eye on “Goldrush Heart.” “On the day her daddy said, ‘Girl, I want to be like you’/All she answered back was ‘Yeah, I know you do,'” Starr sings, “Shit like that would break a normal girl in half/She just pushed her hair back, and she laughed.” Two individuals fully realized in four lines.
The Mississippi native reached a creative peak on 2002’s hallmark Songs From Take-Off to Landing. Breezy tunes like “Big Sky,” “At the Heart of This Thing” and “Knucklehead” brought together the independent integrity of Triple-A radio and the polished smile typically aimed at mainstream play. Everything internal-head, heart and hope-worked on a universal scale. The liner notes photo accompanying her acknowledgements spoke volumes: Captured screaming jubilantly, Starr, both hands locked with heavy-metal horns, seems through the clouds. It was a profound high.
No wonder she’s still chasing that feeling three albums later. Like Etheridge-or, say, Jay Farrar, for that matter-Starr’s detractors harpoon the songwriter for being too formulaic, too predictable. There’s some merit to the argument. Like 2005’s Airstreams & Satellites and Sound of You and Me in 2006, The Girl That Killed September is largely an arid, vacant facsimile of Songs From Take-Off to Landing. Most egregious are the punctured zeppelins “Fireworks” and “Stay Home Tonight.”
Of course, many fans offer adoration specifically for her consistency, and Starr’s genuine, earthy songwriting approach makes it easy to keep rooting-fists clenched and shaking – for more artistic evolution. Key tunes like the title track, “Brightest Star” and “Spectacle”-all effortless, absolutely unselfconscious-suggest the next time out she might reach the sky again. “This is really how I feel,” Starr sings on the latter, “and I’m gonna scream until it’s real.” Now, that’s more like it.