Sydney, Australia-native Anne McCue throws a little bit of everything at us on Roll: blues, country, Sheryl Crow-like pop, even a nine-minute, near metal cover of Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” After more than an hour, we don’t really know who McCue is, but we’re pretty sure there is a formidable talent at work.
The easy-going twang of the Johnny Cash-inspired “I Want You Back” kicks things off. It sports one of the record’s most memorable melodies, some tasty guitar work and McCue’s pleasant if unremarkable voice (you’d be hard pressed to discover an Australian accent in there). “Nobody’s Sleeping” rocks a bit more, and she sure does make that six string scream. It’s easy to see why Lucinda Williams is a fan.
On the catchy, Rickenbacker and Hammond B-3 tinged “Stupid” she name checks Dylan and Lennon and warns us not to listen too hard to all the Chicken Littles out there. “Hangman” is an off-kilter blues number, and believe it or not “50 Dollar Whore” is a very pretty, delicate acoustic ballad inspired by three months spent performing in Vietnam. The dynamic range of “Tiny Little Song” is impressive, even if the song doesn’t say a whole lot.
The title track goes on for too long, but gives McCue the opportunity to once again show off her considerable guitar playing chops. There’s also a spooky tune about Mahatma Gandhi and a moody, Jay Farrar-like slo-mo number. Just when things threaten to become a little sleepy towards the end of the disc, McCue’s guitar in “Ballad of An Outlaw Woman” will wake you up. But the one-take, live-in-the-studio set-closing Hendrix cover is a true shock to the system.
Roll is an overlong record to a significant degree. But, then again, McCue has a lot to show us. Here’s hoping she’ll be showing us new tricks for many years to come.