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January 30, 2023

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Noe Venable
The World is Bound by Secret Knots (Petridish Records)

By: Scott D. Lewis

As I keep trying to tell people, San Francisco's award-winning singer-songwriter Noe Venable has a ton of talent packed into her tiny frame. That's likely why Ani DiFranco keeps inviting her out on tour ... that, and, like DiFranco, she's got a wonderfully wacky sense of humor. Venable's latest album, her fourth and most complexly-titled, is also her most ambitious, seductive and engaging. With just an electric piano backing her up, Venable sounds like a munchkin version of Emmylou Harris on the opening "riverWide." She's just playing a trick, starting off with an odd little distraction so that when she unleashes her powers and allure, aiming them at that special spot between your throat and heart, they'll hit with maximum impact. Swirling and smoky, "Juniper" meticulously melts the mind and haunts the heart. Like most of Venable's songs, it sounds like it comes from another time and place, a spot in the past that held more beauty and magic than we can presently imagine. With whispered word-speak singing, Venable casts a creepy and curious little spell of a story-song during "Black Madonna,' throwing in harp swipes as if to remind us that she's playing a bit. That voice gets smooth and put into a house of mirrors for the following "garden," and then introspective and subdued on the gentle and soothing "midsummer night's dream." Venable has a knack for singing phases so that they immediately and permanently stick to the brain and on "feral," when she gently shouts, "I got a sister and I got a little brother, and I don't ever wanna be like them either," well, I can't help but repeat the line aloud over and over. In fact, a great amount of The World is Bound by Secret Knots has taken up a comfortable, lasting residence in my mind and this album deserves many more happy homes. Noe Venable may be small, but she should be huge.
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