A tintinnabulous beauty hovers over Bruises & Butterflies (released May 18), the resonant debut from San Francisco’s Elisa Randazzo. This is the sort of record John Peel’s shortlived Dandelion Records would have snapped up, a lovely, emotionally rich soundscape that exists outside of any hourglass. Carried along by subtle, mostly gentle percussion (courtesy of The Mother Hips’ John Hofer) and crystalline acoustic strings, Bruises & Butterflies vibrates sympathetically with revered folk rockers like Linda Perhacs, John Martyn, Sandy Denny and Bridget St. John, who gloriously guests on two cuts here where she and Randazzo’s voices intertwine winningly.
It would be enough for Randazzo to float on reverb rich waves, strumming out prettiness but there’s some beefier tracks like “Colors” that suggest Beth Orton has some new competition. Orton is a good touchstone because Randazzo isn’t only interested in tapping early 70s magic. She’s shooting for timelessness, and as Joe Goldmark’s pedal steel sways with her voice and the cumulus swell of “Waterfall” or shuffles with her on the honky tonk at the end of world ditty “Circles,” it’s pretty clear she’s already well on her way towards this goal. Unlike many young artists, Randazzo resists hiding behind too much production, letting her charming pipes warm one with immediacy, riding the music with unforced dexterity. And the tunes throughout, largely penned with guitarist Aaron Robinson, reward repeat spins for many reasons. Bruises & Butterflies is a keeper and bodes well for more quality stuff to come.