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Erin McKeown: In Search Of Breathing Room

Years in the making — from conception to self-financing to songwriting to recording — Erin McKeown's Hundreds of Lions is her first disc of original songs since 2006. Funded in part through a series of "Cabin Fever" live Web concerts McKeown held behind her house, Hundreds of Lions nicely reflects those freewheeling and unpredictable performances, in which McKeown held court on porches and even in rivers.

The album itself can be lilting and acoustic or spatial and deep. As sly as its title sounds, "(Put the Fun Back in the) Funeral" isn't about finding the bright side of bad situations; instead, it finds McKeown moving gracefully through a series of scenarios involving entrapment and enclosure. Whether buried in the ground — with dirt echoing on the coffin roof overhead and everything — or trapped on a stifling bus, her protagonist ruminates on a life in which air is in short supply. The lilting pace of "Funeral" maintains a fluttering heartbeat, an unbalanced dance in a deepening spiral. Survival is a struggle, she seems to suggest, though there's a glimmer of joy in the release.

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Claire Blaustein
Claire Blaustein is a freelance writer and music critic who writes for a variety of publications, including The Washington Post, Exclaim! Magazine and La Scena Musicale. She came to NPR as a Performance Today intern in 2005, and has thus far refused to leave. When not doing any of the above, she writes in her blog, I Dig Music..., and pouts until someone gives her a new CD to play with.