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Trish Klein, who’s best known these days as a member of the Be Good Tanyas, started Po’ Girl in 2002 to sing “creaky old jazz tunes.” Naturally, only someone who wasn’t a jazz singer would use such a characterization, and even though Vancouver's Po’ Girl has been expanded to a quintet—Allison Russell even plays some clarinet—there's nothing remotely jazz about them. On the group’s recently released second album, Home to You (Nettwerk), they deliver a mixture of folk rock, country, and quasi-old-time music, and while putting a pop spin on this amalgam they do a pretty good job.
The problem—one I can’t get past for a minute—is the singing, which is a pure product of the Ani DiFranco school of breathy, nasal excess. Using an extreme vibrato that transforms a voice into the equivalent of a fish flopping around on the floor of a boat does not equal Billie Holiday. There’s an inescapable air of preciousness, a need to over-emote every single phrase, to transform each line into a grandiose statement, and zero confidence in the words or melodies to simply speak for themselves. Po’ Girl plays Schubas on Wednesday, February 21.