New releases from three rugged women.
There are so many moody, tortured female singer/songwriters out there, you could read pages before even getting to the dudes-who are often even tougher to distinguish from each other than the girls. Dying tragically young can be a useful way to stand out from the pack, but it doesn't do much for the career. Bronx-born Mic Christopher spent the bulk of his musical life in Ireland, gaining a national reputation there for writing uplifting, perfectly crafted songs-first with his band the Mary Janes in the '90s and later as a solo artist. His star had just begun to rise when one night after a gig in November 2001 he slipped on some steps and fell into a coma, never to wake again. Christopher had been prepping for his solo full-length debut, leaving behind rough sketches for his own drunken sweethearts, demos peppered with lush strings and simple harmonies. The following year his family and friends posthumously released Christopher's fond farewell Skylarkin, a gritty 11-song confessional full of guitars that are shimmery without the sheen, and hooks and melodies sounding damn near perfect. To find Skylarkin takes some Internet digging (try www.roadrecs.com or www.mulligan.ie, both independent stores in Ireland), but it's worth it to get that rare glimpse of an extreme gift untainted by fame and attention. (J.B.)