Gina Arnold
June 14, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

House of Hope

Current Status
In Season
Toni Childs

We gave it a B+

According to recent census studies, the vast majority of Americans living below the poverty line today are women: some struggling at the head of a single-parent household, others elderly and alone, all of them the unwitting victims of circumstances that have contributed to what’s being called the feminization of poverty. Many of the songs on Toni Childs’ new album, House of Hope, are about the lives of these women, and thanks to Childs’ warm, soulful voice, which is full of empathy for her subject matter, they are far more personal and human than the anthemic treatises on humanity that riddled Union, her 1988 debut. If House of Hope has a flaw, however, it’s that the long series of songs like ”Got to Go Now” (in which a wife leaves her husband after years of neglect) and ”Daddy’s Song” (about child abuse), though often moving, aren’t really uplifting. Perhaps this failure is due in part to the remote, atmospheric nature of Childs’ music, which is polished and cold rather than gritty and emotional, like the vocals. The resulting combination is New-Agey rather than bluesy, but Childs still ought to be commended for digging deep into a topic most of America doesn’t want to think about. B+

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