Review: Mary Karlzen’s diverse set covers range of topics

Mary Karlzen, “Shine” (Y&T Music)

Mary Karlzen’s first album in 14 years is a diverse set that includes an Irish-tinged ballad, a country duet, heartland rock, a piano waltz and one brief hint it was recorded for a Miami label.

“When your life’s just out of reach,” she sings, “get yourself to the beach.”

The expansive approach on “Shine” fits Karlzen’s versatile voice, which like Nanci Griffith and Julie Miller can sound both whispery and steely — and twangy on her duet with Radney Foster, “You Still Belong to Me.” An excellent supporting cast also includes Garry Tallent, Kenny Aronoff, Greg Leisz, Ken Coomer and Daniel Tashian, who won two Grammys for co-producing Kacey Musgraves’ groundbreaking 2018 album, “Golden Hour.”

Karlzen, a former Miamian now based in Milwaukee, has written a fine batch of songs with quirky melodies that cover a range of topics, from mentoring and forgiveness to unrealized potential and brighter tomorrows. “I’ll Be There” is a touching parental pledge of allegiance, while the rocking “Dumb Game” plumbs a different set of emotions and features a terrific kiss-off line: “I am so sorry I took you seriously.”

Best of all is the title cut, an intimate, reflective, thought-provoking finale. “Is this all there is?” Karlzen sings, leaving the listener wanting more.

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