Only With Laughter Can You Win
You’ll still see Rosie Thomas pulling out her old stand-up routine during her liberatingly unpretentious live shows, but on album she keeps her two jobs strictly apart from each other, taking her music as seriously as it deserves to be taken. Her 2002 debut When We Were Small had critics and folk music fans alike falling over each other with praise. Only With Laughter Can You Win picks up where she left off, the music as intimate and considered as the last time.
Enlisting family members and friends like Denison Witmer to help out, Rosie Thomas still occupies center stage herself — her strong, versatile voice reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and her songs calm but authoritative and passionate. Starting with the hymnal a cappella of “Let Myself Fall,” a duet with her mother, Thomas establishes a powerful sense of wonder and beauty from the outset. Her point is further realized on tracks like the serene “I Play Music,” the quiet “One More Day” and the lovely “You and Me.” The latter evokes the classic pop influence of Carole King, as well as more obvious reference points like Mitchell and latter-day Emmylou Harris, sometime musical partner Damien Jurado and label mates The Shins.
A compassionate and reflective album about faith and love, Only With Laughter Can You Win doesn’t pretend pain or need to scream out its brilliance, instead Thomas opts for honest introspection through slow, subdued melodies. With her debut, Thomas established herself as one of the more exciting new names in folk music and singer-songwriter pop these days. Only With Laughter Can You Win further consolidates her position, even as it broadens her musical palette, proving she’s both more versatile and more consistent than one could reasonably have expected.
Rosie Thomas: http://www.subpop.com/