"We don't fit into any one genre" may be a musical cliché, but sometimes it comes close to being true. For want of pithy adjectives no one's yet made up: Soften the Blow is a singer/songwriter, folk-rock record. It's also some of the most musically mature acoustic pop you'll ever hear.
Maybe that's because Joy Dragland is backed by notable New York jazz players, including guitarists Jeremy Zmuda and Lage Lund as well as Madison expat Leo Sidran.
The charming bass/banjo harmony of "Little Sister" accompanies Dragland's lonely wish for the company of a younger sibling. The pop guitar chords that frame "St. Cloud" rise slowly as the song's emotion builds. They're punctuated by a bridge that harmonizes flute and voice in breathtaking fashion.
Once a Madisonian, Dragland has been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the past five years. The beautiful tracks on this CD make us miss her that much more.