Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/label boss Kaia Wilson has much to be pleased about these days. Her band, The Butchies, goes from strength to strength, maturing onstage and on record (last year's 3 was their finest yet) into one of N.C.'s finest bands. The band is so respected that they're nearly as high profile as Le Tigre, the biggest catch on Wilson's nine-artist strong Mr. Lady label. As busy and/or satisfied as that should keep her, Wilson has also made three solo albums, and her new release, Oregon, is pretty much what you'd expect a sensitive rocker to do with her free time: an acoustic album. And not a bad one either--when Wilson raises her voice above the intimate, sweet, adolescent singing that may make you feel like you're intruding on something private, she snatches your drifting attention right back.
The album opens strong with "The World's Greatest Haircut," a paean to worthy feminist hero Amelia Earhart. There are some other fine songs, too, especially a compelling lament for a friendship with her hometown's other freak show, "Jasper"--complete with some Springsteen-ish harmonica and a great chorus. Then there's the sweet, Caribbean-flavored "Make Me Please" and the plaintive, country-flavored "Mira."
But most of the rest is for her legions of fans only, and so it goes for most folkie albums by solo artists. The songs are fine, full of heart and clever touches. But unless you're inclined to hang onto her very word, your thoughts may wander during some of her more private moments. Still, Oregon is pretty solid considering she has to make due without bandmate Melissa York's powerful drumming, and she deserves extra points for brevity--it clocks in at half an hour. Other artists should take note.