Girls on side: Pop Stops reviews its own Lilith Fair

As the summer finally comes into view and the final tour of Lilith Fair gears up, the traveling concert circus featuring women artists comes to Chicago's The World Theatre Aug. 19 with Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, K's Choice and Sheryl Crow. The Lilith camp is building anticipation by releasing two more live discs in June culled from last year's fair performances Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music Vols. 2 & 3 feature songs from Sinead O'Connor, Wild Strawberries and K's Choice to Lisa Loeb, Cowboy Junkies and Shawn Colvin.

This edition of Pop Stops takes a look at the current crop of albums by some of the women in rock and pop that you won't be seeing at this year's Lilith Fair:

 

Jessica Andrews - Heart Shaped WorldJessica Andrews
Heart Shaped World
(Dreamworks)


She's young and pretty and sings like a country angel. She's 15-year-old Jessica Andrews, and much like LeAnn Rimes, she croons on her debut CD with a voice that sounds far more mature than her years.

Heart Shaped World is a collection of catchy country tunes (written by a host of talented songwriters including a heart-wrenching breakup ballad by Tom Petty band member Benmont Tench) that often cross the border into pop hit land. "You Go First" is guaranteed to breach a smile when Andrews teases "Do you want a kiss?/you go first" as the guitars crunch and sway behind her. Ranging from contemplative ballads in the style of Beth Nielsen Chapman ("The Riverside") to a country pop style bringing up images of Faith Hill (who asked Andrews to tour with her), Heart Shaped World will be winning over fans and hearts on both sides of the country/pop dividing line this summer.

 

Billie
Honey To The B
(Virgin)
½


Speaking of young girls at the mike, 16-year old Billie Piper offers a new teen album for boys to drool over. Released last year in Europe when she was still 15, Honey To The B is a sassy pop album with occasional hints of Paula Abdul, Spice Girls and a host of other girl pop sensations. The disc leads with its best track, the sugary "Honey To The B," which lets Billie get away with saying something most adult vocalists could never pull off with a straight face: "C'mon, buzz me up to heaven, baby."

Billie's debut which has already spawned three huge hits in her U.K. home is light, fluffy kid stuff, but often catchy and always sweet.

 

Mulberry Lane - Run Your Own Race Mulberry Lane
Run Your Own Race
(Refuge/MCA)


Is this a Wilson Phillips cover band?

Well, no, actually...but it could be! If that big-name girl-harmony act were still around today, you would swear that "Harmless," the first track on Run Your Own Race, was a WP single. This gorgeous track should be a smash hit, and hopefully light pop radio will pick up on its breezy beauty. Likewise, the second track, "Just One Breath," echoes the catchy pop of Wilson Phillips' smashes like "Hold On" and "Impulsive."

All four of the women in Mulberry Lane (named after the street they grew up on) are sisters, and that's obvious both in the similarity in their voices and features good luck trying to find the differences between their Barbie perfect blue eyes and blond hair on the cover of this disc.

Their sonic purity no doubt owes something both to their sisterhood and to their home the quiet flats of Omaha. Their independently released CD last year may have ended their Midwestern solitude, however. It caught radio as well as major label ears, and now their heartwarmingly sweet songs buoyed by acoustic guitars, strings and light percussion arrangements can finally be heard outside of Nebraska. While midway through the album the song writing starts to bottom out and those blanket cozy harmonies just don't quite stand on their own, this is a promising debut disc from some sisters who truly have the gift of voice.

 

Penelope Houston
Tongue
(Reprise)


There's an edgy sneer to Houston's pop rock songs that lends her straight-up rock songs a hint of mystery. She's titillatingly playful in hooky pop songs like "Tongue" and "Grand Prix," and strangely moving in the classic ballad structure of "The Ballad of Happy Friday and Tiger Woods."

Back when she played with a band called The Avengers, Houston opened shows for The Go-Gos. Now former Go-Gos Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey return the favor, co-writing and playing on Houston's "Tongue" and "Things," giving those songs a particularly beach-ready flavor.

This is a fine summer rock record.