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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 21.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Scout Niblett
This Fool Can Die Now (Too Pure)

At this point in her career, British-bred, U.S.-based singer-guitarist Scout Niblett is probably tired of all the comparisons with PJ Harvey. But, hey, sometimes the shoe just fits, and frankly, the more forceful indie-rock material on This Fool Can Die Now sounds like it could have come off one of Harvey's albums from a decade ago.

Niblett does add a little something to her progenitor's old formula every now and then. The soft-then-loud dynamic of "Your Last Chariot" has a certain soulfulness about it, and rumbling, bluesy "Nevada" evokes a desperate love affair reasonably well. But there's no sense that this is truly original material.

Niblett makes a stronger case for her own creativity on several country-folk duets she shares with the always unpredictable Will Oldham. Here she plays the trilling - and at times rather shrill - songbird to Oldham's earnest back-country tenor, and the pairing works well. The plaintive, stripped-down country gospel intro of "Do You Want to Be Buried with My People" is downright beatific, and the two singers' suitably wistful take on "River of No Return" squeezes tears from every verse. Oldham carries much of the load on both tunes, but the fact that Niblett knows exactly when to push her way to the front of the mix and when to reach for more subtle colors is impressive.

The final third of the album is a bit soporific, thanks in large part to Niblett's sketchy work on electric guitar. However, the proceedings heat up again toward the end when Oldham returns for another shot of spare country folk on the lulling "Comfort You."

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