When a small bird first falls out of its nest and starts flying, it tends to flutter first this direction and then that, sometimes wavering and then recovering until it learns to fly a straight course. Much more so here than in her first release, Lenore seems the artistic equivalent of that small bird. With every song, Lenore seems to fly off in another artistic direction with varying degrees of success.
Summer Dancing features songs that come close to pure rock and roll, folk (or perhaps folkish is a better word) songs, country sounding songs, theatrical bits that would go over well at the local folk club or in an intimate concert, sweet pop songs, and variations on these. The sense created is definitely of an artist trying to find herself. At this early stage in her recording career, there's no harm in that.
Lenore is good at whatever she does. She has a voice that can be at turns strong and sweet and often combines the two as many singers cannot. Of the multiple personalities who inhabit this release, there are none I couldn't learn to like. However, I still prefer Lenore when she does rock and roll. In this mode, her guitar playing seems to get stronger and edgier and her vocals seem more free, more relaxed. Given the right backing, Lenore could rock with the best of them. (Speaking of rock and roll, Mark Armstrong plays some mean sax on some of these tracks.)
"Summer Dancing" is an interesting song to start this set. The sound is a sort of ersatz pop-rock reminiscent of the song "Summer Nights" from Grease. One can almost hear Olivia Newton John joining in. Less than real rock and roll, this is show music without a show.
"Driving" and "The Man" bring out Lenore's rock and roll roots and are two of the strongest songs on Summer Dancing. Lenore knows how to write lyrics that fit the simple rockbilly format yet also tell a story, and she knows how to belt out the song while her guitar wails. "The Man" and"Temptation" are arguably the best tracks on this CD. They're certainly the best examples of Lenore at her rocking best. And that wild sax and wailing guitar doesn't hurt these songs at all.
At the other extreme, "Crowded Sidewalks" is a sweet, sad country song featuring an emotional vocal by Lenore. For some weird reason, "Sunday Morning Coming Down" comes to mind. Perhaps it's because, without Kristofferson's darkness, some of the same themes are present.
If you want a bit of humour well-suited to a folkie lounge or house concert, "The Smokin' Song" may be just the thing for you. This song has a real down home, Forties feel and lots of funny lines. "This Old House" comes to mind, suggested I think by the rhythm and structure of the song. "The Smokin' Song" should certainly resonate with anyone who has tried to quit or has been around a quitting smoker.
On her second CD release, Lenore has maintained the quality of writing and performance she exhibited in her first. The craft is clearly there. On her next effort, Lenore might be wise to narrow her field a bit and focus on the musical style in which she feels most comfortable. With this narrower focus, Lenore could concentrate her efforts at polishing her writing and performance to surpass what she has so far accomplished.
You can find my review of Lenore's self-titled debut release at Sound Bytes.
Lenore's Summer Dancing was released in 2002 on Elaine Records. The album contains 13 tracks.