Folk songstress Alyssa Carlson’s independent full-length This Side of Innocence sounds like a midafternoon daydream set to music. The album’s nine tracks are all penned by Carlson herself, with the exception of an exquisite cover version of John Mellencamp’s “Jackie Brown”, which fits in satisfyingly with the rest of the album’s demure sound.
Beginning with opener “Boy From Tennessee”, Carlson’s thin, breathy vocals reveal intimate details of a love gone wrong, but interestingly told from the culprit’s point of view. “I never raised a hand, only an eyebrow/I lied and told her I was with another/Left her crying in the rain,” sings Carlson from her betrayer’s perspective.
The pace quickens on the upbeat “Lonely and the Fool”, which includes a noteworthy harmonica performance by Mando Saenz. “Time was on our side when we wanted to run/The clock was still ticking/I tried to burn a way out,” Carlson confesses during the chorus. Other album highlights include upbeat numbers “The Girl” and “Castle In A Carnival”, but the set’s strongest offering by far is the aforementioned Mellencamp cover “Jackie Brown.”
Carlson’s songwriting skills show promise, but This Side of Innocence is too weighed down by an overabundance of somber, meandering downbeats. Her voice is pleasant but lacking in range or emotional depth, and occasionally becomes wearisome. At times Carlson sounds as if she’s trying not to disturb anyone as she quietly whispers her lyrical revelations.
Putting the few fallacies aside, fans of folk/pop with a slight country flavor will undoubtedly want to give This Side of Innocence a spin to find out if Carlson’s musical style speaks to you personally. The album contains numerous outstanding moments and was impeccably produced by Nashville’s Neilson Hubbard (Don Gallardo, Matthew Perryman Jones). Maybe next time, Carlson could add a little more impulsiveness and diversity into her musical palette and vocal performance.