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Beautiful Lumps of Coal - Click to view! There is something to be said for knowing your audience. Making music is hard work, and nobody likes to make an album that doesn't sell. If you don't believe me, just ask the countless numbers of "promising young bands" who were unable to make their music popular and eventually went the way of the dinosaur.

Plumb isn't a "promising new artist," but she does have a reputation to live up to amongst her fans. Her previous two albums demonstrated her poetic talent with songs that delicately wrapped the moments of our lives into words. And her music (subtle pop with a rock edge) carried the emotions behind the lyrics to greater heights, creating not just a song, but a moment.

Beautiful Lumps of Coal doesn't stray from this "sure hit" pattern. If anything, it develops it further. The pop influence is more prominent on this album, yet the rock edge has never been sharper. "Free," "Without You," and "Walk Away" all follow Plumb's usual formula of "guitar intro / keyboard backing for verse / guitar chorus." Some may consider this oversimplifying, but this basic pattern can be heard in most of Plumb's songs. The change-up from song to song is well-produced, however, and it keeps the listener from getting bored by repetitive songwriting.

The lyrics are similarly repetitive, though more squarely aimed at one audience. From the lead-off "Free" to the closer "Go," every song is aimed at teenage girls with messages not dissimilar to other Christian pop artists (Stacie Orrico, Rachael Lampa, etc.). "Free" speaks of a girl leaving behind a restrictive relationship; "Nice Nave and Beautiful" is an ode to all who have lived/are living in destructive relationships; "Real" tells the sad story of a girl ensnared by the world's standards. For the most part, the songs deal with relationships, but each song seems to present a different point of view. Some songs tell of love, some of lost love, and some of love that is only wished for. While Plumb's many perspectives might appeal to teen pop fans, something more consistent and more realistic would make for a better album.

If you're part of Plumb's audience, you will love Beautiful Lumps of Coal. After all, it has all the heartbreak and love of a Backstreet Boys song with all the emotion and energy of Christina Aguilera. And for that accomplishment, Plumb deserves credit. Yet, in her zeal to hit her audience dead-on, Plumb forgets everyone else. Who can say whether or not this will affect her sales? All I know is that this listener won't be buying her music in the future.
- Jason Ewert
June 2003
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