City Slang – 2002 – 61 minutes

If you ever had Lambchop pegged as a country band, prepare to be surprised and very, very intrigued. Whereas 2000's 'Nixon' saw 'chop lynchpin Kurt Wagner move away from the alternative country tag to delve deep into the river of soul - complete with swooning horns, pedal steel and kick-ass funk - their new album is an altogether quieter affair.

From that wide-screen sound to peephole focus, 'Is A Woman' is a velvet-soft, piano-driven trip through universal troubles and triumphs as filtered through the new-minted eyes of Wagner. His idiosyncratic voice purrs and gulps as he weaves a quiet ambling magic from his thoughtful observations of life's minutiae.

A loose collective gathered around Wagner, Lambchop has a flexible membership which expands and contracts with each record and tour. For this album, pianist Tony Crow came on board and his playing, together with Wagner's voice and lyrics, form the core of 'Is A Woman'. Avoiding easy genre-labels, the band lapses into reggae on the title track, flirts with a country twang on 'Flick' and incorporates insect noises into 'Bugs'.

Neither as lush nor as full bodied as you might expect after 'Nixon', 'Is A Woman' nevertheless has more than enough meat on its bones to pull you back again and again. A very definite grower.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: The Daily Growl - The New Cobweb Summer - My Blue Wave - I Can Hardly Spell My Name - Autumn's Vicar - Flick - Catapillar - D. Scott Parsley - Bugs - The Old Matchbook Trick - Is A Woman