4AD - 2003 - 48 minutes

After the disappointment of the simultaneously released Throwing Muses reunion, Hersh's sixth solo effort makes good amends - even if it'll scare the pants off you in places. While the Muses record was all about fast recording and messy guitars, 'The Grotto' is one of those albums that convinces you - rightly or wrongly - that every chord was poured over for a very long time.

With Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb on piano and Andrew Bird on violin in the background, Hersh takes her voice and guitar and pulls you through ten tales of the darkside. There's talk of 'cranial impacts', 'clever sons of bitches who can't leave a girl alone' and 'liking people more when they're drunk' with her singing so powerful that you'll wonder if the songs could've been just as powerful if she'd left the acoustic in its case.

There's nothing you can sing along to while you're in 'The Grotto', but it's a good place to hide out.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Sno Cat - Deep Wilson - Snake Oil - Vanishing Twin - SRB - Silver Sun - Vitamins V - Arnica Montana - Milk Street - Ether