First, there's the voice. MaryLeigh Roohan boasts an awesome vocal instrument—it's alternately a trumpet, a saxophone, and a lead guitar. Close your eyes and ignore the lyrics (for a moment). You don't need a lyric sheet to get where Roohan is going. Hers is a naturally evocative instrument, packed with passion and yearning and a plaintive edge that in and of itself speaks volumes in this ode to melancholy heartbreak that, indeed, leaves nothing to the imagination but skin and bone.
But then there's more, because the 23-year-old Skidmore College grad also happens to be a terrific composer and lyricist. She commands some broad musical territory, including blues, country, folk, pop, rock, even a bit of Latin jazz. Producer Jason Brown smartly forefronts Roohan's vocals, and employs his own multi-instrumental talents (bass, mandolin, violin, keyboards, percussion) as well as those of guitarists Meg Duffy and Joel Brown, drummer Chris Carey, organist Tim Peck, and cellist Andrew Brown, merely to serve the songs. There are some obvious touchstones here—a bit of Bonnie Raitt, some Sharon Van Etten, and a few influences that Roohan herself acknowledges, including Paul Simon, Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), and Etta James. But in a funny way, although she sounds nothing like him, Roohan reminds me more of Kurt Cobain than anyone else—the rawness and pain of the voice; the dark, minor-key quietude of the melodies; the go-for-brokeness of her expression. Call it folk-grunge—except in her case, it's a whole lot prettier. Maryleighmusic.com.