When more than four years elapse between releases from a steadily gigging artist, it’s natural to expect some significant changes, but Oh, the Stories We Hold (Undertow), the new album by Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, isn’t too different from 1999’s Things to Come. The local Filipina-American singer-songwriter has sharpened her skills somewhat, but the album is dominated by the same middle-of-the-road country rock, and there’s even a Latin-tinged torch standard (“Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps,” a hit for Doris Day) to follow the cover of “Besame Mucho” on the last release. Then again, country is a conservative genre, and Fermin has the kind of voice that obviates the need to tweak the formula. Her strong, husky alto has never sounded better or more assured as she tackles twangy ballads like the beautiful “Glory” with a perfect balance of grace and gusto. Her occasional flirtations with more rocking material are less successful; she belts it out like a pro on the stomping “My Town” (a song that suggests Steve Earle channeling John Mellencamp’s hometown boosterism) but with only a fraction of the emotional power she generates on the hooky “Is That All” (about a woman walking out on an inadequate lover). Fermin’s longtime guitarist Andon Davis left before the album was recorded, and he’s sorely missed. His replacement, Frank Kvinge, is competent, but the lite-metal solo on “Chance I Can’t Afford Not to Take,” combined with the reverb-laden production of ex-Wilco guitarist Jay Bennett, brings to mind Bonnie Tyler. Filipino musicians Omar and Vicoy Bautista and spoken-word artist Kay Barrett open. Friday, December 19, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.