Sure, Mary Karlzen sings like a coal miner's daughter and lives in Wisconsin, but she's originally a South Florida home girl who got her break with local outfit Y&T Music. Her third album, Dim the Watershed
, released on Y&T in 2000, helped legitimize the hype regarding South Florida's musical talent at the time, and even though she's moved on, the trajectory of her career is worth tracking. Her newest project, The Wanderlust Diaries
, suggests that Karlzen is in touch with her muse and once again singing troubled songs about bittersweet circumstances. She offers a dark rendition of Tom Wait's stirring "Heart of Saturday Night" in emotive fashion, and it's no surprise that many of the album's lo-fi piano ballads are drenched in melancholia. She's been accused of navigating paths already worn down by Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple, and that criticism unfortunately bears some truth. But she manages to break free of those comparisons with the more upbeat entries on Wanderlust,
"Oh My," "Stupid or Something," and the infectious "Friends Along the Way," suggesting a rare celebratory mood. Sonically, it doesn't hurt that Karlzen gets studio support from vocalist Garrison Starr, Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, and bassist Garry Tallent from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Local favorites Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin of the Mavericks also lend contributions, as does singer Jolynn Daniel. So if Wanderlust
more wistful than resolute, it's still an impressive document heralding a welcome return.