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Singer/songwriter Lauren Fincham does it her way

Jacksonville, Fla.'s thriving rock scene may have spawned Southern icons Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, but it just wasn't songwriter/artist Lauren Fincham's cup of Bud.

"When I was little and growing up in Jacksonville, one of my sisters had a guitar that she had borrowed from someone, and she taught me a little tune," Finchman recalls. "I was hooked."

The song, "Little Black Egg," an obscure garage-rock single by the Nightcrawlers, might seem an odd choice for inspiration in the boogie mecca of central Florida -- but not to the restless mind of Fincham. "I didn't like what everyone else my age was into," she says. "I liked a lot of odd things at once."

Her three sisters listened to a mix of Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand and Jimi Hendrix. The swirl of sounds from the family household inspired Fincham to seek out a variety of music, and to eventually begin performing locally.

"As a solo female artist in Jacksonville, you were sort of forced to play either Janis Joplin or Bonnie Raitt -- who are great -- but that's pretty much all they wanted to hear a girl sing," she says. "I can't belt out like that; that's just not the way I sing."

Though she satisfied the clubs' demands for covers, Fincham avoided the expected choices, including material by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leonard Cohen and even Blue Oyster Cult instead. Quiet and introspective, she has always bucked the system one way or another.

"I was always being written up for my rebel behavior as a kid," she says. "I just had a hard time with authority."

Fincham fondly recalls being kicked out of Bible school as a kid ("'You need to go home and examine your beliefs,' they said. They were upset because I was questioning things -- but I haven't stopped yet"). The impact of her parents' divorce led her to examine the world even more. "When you grow up watching people and processing behavior constantly, you become aware of the subtleties of people a lot faster."

Fincham found a comforting outlet for communication in music. "Songs make it easier to express myself," she says. "Everyday language doesn't really lend itself to all the mish-mash of things that go on in your head and move around in your body."

Fincham moved to Atlanta in 1995 to try her luck after kicking around the Jacksonville scene as a solo artist and as a member of several bands. Her style, with its alternate tunings and moody character studies, is actually much more rock- and punk-influenced than the average Eddie's Attic acoustic hopeful. Yet that's where she headed upon arrival in Atlanta, playing countless open-mic nights at Eddie's and slowly building an e-mail list of dedicated followers.

"It was very scary moving here," Fincham admits. "And I certainly didn't take the town by storm."

Fincham's varied tastes and approach continue to keep her on the fence between venues around town as she cultivates her steadily growing -- and pleasingly diverse -- fan base by playing bookstore cafes and suburban gigs.

"It's hard to label me, and I guess that's good," she admits. "I just sit and play what I feel."

Fincham's two albums -- last year's Burning Tree and 1999's Show and Tell -- are like photo albums of Fincham's styles and moods. Tree even includes her take on the classic-rock anthem "Don't Fear the Reaper."

Seeing her live is like hearing a broadcast from some long lost early-'70s FM radio station. Soft ballads are bookended by energetic rock, and all are presented without unnecessary gabbing.

"I've always liked the idea of one different sound after another," she says. "It just keeps things interesting."

Lauren Fincham plays Fri., April 26, at Inside the Song, 64 McNeal Road, Winder. Call for show time and cover. 678-488-6820. www.insidethesong.com.

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