Marianne Flemming is a young singer-songwriter struggling to find her own identity. Folk, pop, rock, blues and funk -- all of these sounds appeal to her, and she often fuses them in ways that evoke images of everyone from Natalie Merchant to the Dave Matthews Band.
While there's nothing wrong with that, there's nothing particularly compelling about it either. Perhaps more than anything else, "Venetian Dream" sounds like a calling card from a performer who's making the rounds on the coffee house circuit and hedging her bets with enough diverse material to please at least some of the people some of the time.
Moving back and forth between fiddle-laced funk ("Randomly") and mystical pop musings ("So Much to Learn"), comforting country ballads ("Come On Back to My House") and jittery ska-inflected romps ("Venetian Dream"), percussive blues ("Evil Disposition") and atmospheric balladry ("Where Dreams Come True"), "Venetian Dream" goes a long way toward demonstrating Flemming's eclectic tastes and considerable vocal talent. A long, long way, in fact. All the stylistic jump-cutting ultimately takes a toll, leaving the listener convinced that Flemming is a lot more appealing singing relatively straightforward ballads than when waxing whimsical or rocking out with a little help from her friends. As any good record producer will tell you, sometimes variety isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Appearing Thursday at IOTA with the John Fey Trio. To hear a free Sound Bite from Marianne Flemming, call Post- Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8102. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)