"The Other Side"

Right On

Melissa Ferrick pulls a Prince on her new CD, "The Other Side."

She not only wrote and produced all 10 songs, but she also sang all the vocals and played all the instruments herself (except one guitar cameo) and engineered the whole thing in her Newburyport, Mass., apartment. The result is a solo album in the most extreme sense, but it's the most impressive work of her career, a career that began as a major-label alt-rocker before settling into a comfortable niche on the singer-songwriter circuit.

Her acoustic guitar and soprano voice still dominate the foreground, but "The Other Side" distinguishes itself from the deluge of singer-songwriter albums by its jittery, knotty rhythms, played by Ferrick on guitar, drums and keyboard bass. Those beats prevent the songs from ever settling into the sleepy formula of sensitive confession; the tension infects the lyrics with the pull of desire and the push of dissatisfaction.

"Like electricity scattered," she sings on the title track, "I don't know what I want. . . . I'm out here giving away more than my body can." At moments, the tune drifts off into a reverie of vocal harmonies as if she were surrendering to external events, but then the agitated guitar lick takes over again and presses her to make a real decision. On "Beijing," she dreams of digging her way to China and joining the Tibetan monks to find a refuge from her current life, and the nervous, catchy guitar lick suggests the obsessive energy such digging would require.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Friday at the Funk Box, Saturday at Jammin' Java and Sunday at the Capital Pride festival. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Melissa Ferrick, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)