On her impressive solo debut, Been Here and Gone (2001), Thalia Zedek showed finesse that was often lacking on the bluesy records she made with Come and her noisy work with earlier bands like Live Skull and Uzi; her voice was always dark, but its anguish was suddenly complemented by a subtle melodic tenderness. That album marked the beginning of an ongoing partnership with violist David Michael Curry and ex-Come drummer Daniel Coughlin, which also produced a fine 2002 EP, You're a Big Girl Now. But her new album, Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness (Thrill Jockey) eclipses anything she's done since Come. (It takes its title from a fortune-cookie message she once received that was Scotch-taped together from the top half of one fortune and the bottom of another.) As usual, her songs study the pitfalls and travails of love under the assumption that happy endings don't really exist; at her most brooding she sounds more like Leonard Cohen than he does. On "Sailor" she employs the old seafarer's adage about "red sky in the morning" as a metaphor for romantic obstinacy, while on the even bleaker "Brother," a meditation on constantly waiting for change, she sings "Whatever you found / Is what you will die with." Zedek's voice has never been stronger; no matter how grim the subject matter gets, she brings compassion to every mahogany note. The mood's masterfully underscored by Curry's viola, which seems to shed tears with every grinding double-stop. Brother JT and Magnus open. Tuesday 11/16, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Crump.