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Record Review 

It is a bit unusual for any New York-based musician to record most of an album in a sleepy Southern hamlet like Dacula, Ga. But on Sam Shaber's debut release for Shawn Mullins' Decatur-based SMG label, the small-town touch works in her favor.

At a pace not unlike one of producer Mullins' ambling narratives, singer/songwriter/guitarist Shaber lays out her big-city Streets with the authority of a veteran traffic planner. She peoples each tune with desperate characters, and her direct, uncluttered songwriting approach fills a warts-and-all scrapbook of lingering lyrical imagery.

Shaber's voice is recorded at an honest, conversational level, so it's more like a warm dialogue. Never monotonous, this breezy collection of modern folk-rock is reminiscent of the best of Kristen Hall (who briefly supplies subdued backing vocals). Perhaps the most haunting tune is "Solitaire." Essentially a memory piece about the loss of Shaber's screenwriter dad, it closes the album with a somber fadeout.

The preceding tracks, however, never resort to maudlin sappiness, even though much of the subject matter dwells on sentimental, reflective ponderings. Yes, there's the now-obligatory 9-11-inspired song, but thankfully "Simon Says" is not another misguided flag-waving anthem. Instead, it mulls the universal dialogue on hate and responsibility, and could just as easily serve as a metaphorical essay on individuality.

Eighty Numbered Streets is marred only by Mullins' signature processed drum sound. His "modern" studio trickery simply isn't needed to enhance Shaber's subtle touch.

Sam Shaber plays Eddie's Attic Fri., May 9.

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