Rose Cousins, "Natural Conclusion" (Old Farm Pony Records)
When Rose Cousins sings she soars and swoops, never to show off but always in service to the song.
The Canadian's glorious alto provides instant gratification on "Natural Conclusion," but the charms of her compositions reveal themselves more slowly. The album is dominated by sad songs concerning matters of the heart, and the tempos are mostly slow, creating an initial sense of sameness. And while Cousins can be hilarious in concert, there's no hint of humor here.
But the sparse, organic, piano-based arrangements are filled with rich detail, as are lyrics that explore the dark recesses of relationships. Producer Joe Henry wisely gives Cousins' voice plenty of room to shine, and she makes the most of the lovely melodies on "White Flag" and "Donoughmore."
This music's not in a hurry. Cousins sings lots of whole notes, as if the pitch has found a happy home and doesn't want to leave. The only tune with a lively tempo comes halfway through the set on "Chains."
But Cousins finds other ways to change pace, needing just 90 seconds to address backstabbing betrayal on "My Friend." Elsewhere she sings of sin, surrender and uncertainty. "I don't know if I have what it takes," she confesses. There should be no doubt.