POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Vocal Precision From the Story

The Story, a female duo from Boston, is the kind of act that might allow a couple of minutes for the discussion of errant hairdos--as in "I'm having a bad hair life"--and then segue without a pause into, "So this song is about death."

The levity at the Story's show on Sunday at the Troubadour was mostly between the songs, not in them. Their lyrics usually cover what singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke grudgingly admitted were "the big topics"--i.e., God, church, death, female oppression and self-suppression, mothers and daughters, more death and dogs. Fortunately, Brooke is an adept enough writer that even her heaviest-themed numbers generally avoid heavy-handedness with a certain winning buoyancy of tune and/or spirit.

This is the duo's first tour with a four-piece backup group, using the same players heard on both their Elektra albums. Comparisons might be drawn to other folkish acts who've made the transition from acoustic dates to band gigs, as the Story lands somewhere between the Indigo Girls' winsome sense of harmony and Suzanne Vega's more eccentric bent. Tasteful guitar solos or no, it's the vocal precision of Brooke and Jennifer Kimball that you come for: Brooke writes sophisticated harmonic changes whose intriguing hooks come at you cockeyed and sideways more often than they swoop down from the heavens.

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