4AD – 2001 – 51 minutes

Kristin Hersh, of Throwing Muses fame – but not fortune – is back with another solo album of troubled but fascinating songs. Although 'Sunny Border Blue' is initially a difficult album to penetrate, it has something that draws you back and draws you in until you too are an inmate of Hersh's askew world. A solo album in the strictest sense of the word – she plays all the instruments, writes all the songs (apart from an outstanding version of Cat Stephen's Trouble) and produces the finished work –'Sunny Border Blue' is well worth spending time with.

The lyrics are stream of consciousness, Burroughs-style cut-ups about personal incidents – the break-up of the Muses, losing custody of her eldest son, hating the one you also love – that hang together to make an obscure kind of sense. Although Hersh sometimes seems almost too fragile to expose herself this way, she seems to have reached a new understanding of herself and the way her songs emerge. In Candyland she sings "I lost a boy" but "this isn't trauma/it's not even drama anymore" because "I was born with a sad song in my mouth". The highpoint has to be the haunting cadences of "smoky" Spain. Initially a gentle ballad, Hersh suddenly cries out angrily "I wanted you to sleep with her and hate yourself instead of me". She refuses to look at the world through rose-tinted lenses, instead levelling her steely blue gaze at the dark corners and ugly places. Although there is an occasional mis-step – Silica sounds like Neil Young's The Needle and The Damage Done – ' Sunny Border Blue' is a remarkable album, a welcome addition to the catalogue of a vibrant and ever-fascinating artist.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Your Dirty Answer - Spain - 37 Hours - Silica - William's Cut - Summer Salt - Trouble - Candyland - Measure - White Suckers - Ruby - Flipside - Listerine