Marti Jones — whose offbeat intelligence made her three previous albums connoisseur’s favorites has more than a hint of classic country twang in her voice. That, plus her ear for melodic pop hooks, makes you think her music might be less complicated than it turns out to be.
But she didn’t get to be a connoisseur’s favorite by doing the same things everyone else does. Up to now, most of the songs she sang were by non-roots, non-country artists, ranging as far afield as pop intellectual Elvis Costello. For Any Kind of Lie, she wrote almost all the songs herself or in collaboration with Don Dixon, her husband and producer (himself a cult figure).
The songs are wry observations about life and love. But they’re hard to penetrate; half the lines bear a spin that takes them to the outside corners of the strike zone. ”My sheets are clean/My bed is neat,” Jones and Dixon write in the album’s title song. ”Your voice is clear/And knocks me off my feet.” The song turns out to be about a no-good lover. But we’re forced to deduce that from the way he disturbs her neatly laid-out life, and from one throwaway reference to his lies.
Are the songs really deep enough to make the work of figuring them out worthwhile? No — and so, after a while, you start to wish that the melodies were simpler, and that Dixon’s arrangements were, too. Dixon supports Jones with sounds that seem as if they’re ready to run off and join a circus. His work is always tasteful and helps to illustrate the meaning of the songs. But in the end there’s too much style poured over not quite enough substance — which is too bad, because there’s enough substance here to have made a beguiling album, if only everyone weren’t trying quite so hard.