There are a lot of things that could be considered a crime, but trying to make someone else crack a smile is rarely one of them.
Smilemongering, however, is one of the crimes Whitney Mann addresses in her song "Call the Cops." The persona she adopts tells some unlucky soul to call the police, his mom, his friends and anyone who'll listen to let them know things have changed, that she's giving up on him, that "sometimes the good turns bad."
Who, exactly, has been bad -- her character or his, both or neither -- isn't totally clear, but one thing is: It's a sad and beautiful track, part of her debut EP, The Way Back Home.
"It's the opening track and actually my favorite song from the EP," Mann says. "When I wrote this song, I wanted to get back to my roots as a singer/songwriter, and that's how we recorded it -- just me and my guitar."
The "we" she's referring to is herself and Milwaukee producer J. Christopher Hughes, who also added a pedal steel track to the recording -- provided by Brown Derby's Andrew Harrison, who's part of her backup band along with Kyle Jacobson on bass and Complexcomplex's Tim Russell on drums -- after the acoustic guitar track was laid.
Along with Mann's wispy, crackling voice, it's a tune that recalls all sorts of great artists who flout the stereotype of the singer-songwriters as a faux-bohemian coffee shop warbler with questionable-at-best guitar skills. Instead, it has flashes of the Patty Griffin's world-weary pop, the sad and ghostly whispers of Mazzy Star and Marissa Nadler, and plenty of lonesome, old-fashioned Americana that's a bit reminiscent of a Kasey Chambers tune or even a hollowed-out, mellowed-out Dolly Parton track.
In other words, it's the kind of thing that'll make you depressed -- in a good way -- for at least a few minutes, wondering about why things go wrong in the world.
An MP3 of "Call the Cops" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by the singer-songwriter can be found on her MySpace page, and fans can connect on her Facebook musician page. In addition, she is a contestant in the 105.5 FM Triple M songwriting contest Project M. Whitney Mann and her band will play selections from the new EP at a release party at the Alchemy Café on Friday, May 29.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.