Guitarist Charlotte Thistle depicts familiar characters in a familiar coffeehouse fashion. In “Reluctant Bride” we meet a newlywed conflicted by her choice of marriage-for-convenience, and in “Semper Fi” a Marine is forced to question the Department of Defense’s lack of concern for wounded veterans. But A Girl with a Guitar is hardly an album without true grit.
Unlike some folk artists, Thistle doesn’t sound like the soundtrack for a Democratic Party convention. The bone she has to pick is more with the intangible realm of “society,” though thank goodness she doesn’t phrase it that way. In “Mommy, Why?” Thistle laments the fact that warfare is more socially acceptable than sex. On the surface it seems childlike, perhaps too literal. But when she sings, “Mommy, why can I say war and destruction, but I can’t say fuck?” she ends the song with that final expletive in the most innocent, schoolgirl falsetto.
Thistle is part of a tradition of anti-war, topically focused rhapsody. But her glimmers of comedy, personalized lines and sharp twists of lyrical phrasing are what updates the genre and prevents A Girl with a Guitar from descending into poorly conceptualized political diatribe.
Charlotte Thistle plays Liquid Planet Monday, Sept. 17, at 7 PM. Free.