There are times when Shivaree lead singer Ambrosia Parsley sounds as if she grew up in West Virginia listening to Rickie Lee Jones.

It happens when Parsley's tiny, wistful voice is showcased in a simple acoustic guitar setting, which is occasionally the case on the trio's new album.

It also happens on songs like "Arlington Girl," an atmospheric piano ballad and one of several songs produced by Joe Henry.

And it occurs again when Shivaree indulges in a little rhythmically slack funk on "Pimp," a typically pointed and playful track.

The fact that Parsley's bandmates--bassist Duke McVinnee and keyboardist Danny McGough--wouldn't sound out of place touring with Jones makes the comparison all the harder to ignore.

Fortunately, most of Shivaree's songs are strong--or odd--enough to stand on their own.

The trio is quick to display its affection for odd characters and offbeat scenarios--"Well, I think I hate you/ Isn't this fun," Parsley croons early on--and while a few tunes don't add up to much, the majority of them wed peculiar tales to sparse but imaginatively woven arrangements.

More often than not, that combination alone is intriguing enough to sustain the album's curiously seductive charm.

Appearing Wednesday at Iota.

* To hear a free Soundbite from Shivaree, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8107. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)