Aside from the shortcomings (e.g., low wages, poor medical benefits) common to most skilled professions, being a music journalist doesn't have many downsides. But there is one of note. Because writers receive forthcoming albums long before they go on sale to the public, we can't share our excitement about a new release simultaneously; by the time a record I raved about (in a review submitted for publication 60 days prior) finally reaches the store shelves, my short attention span has moved on.

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A few days ago, I received an advance of Springtime Can Kill You, the third full-length from Jolie Holland. It is magnificent. But how can I take joy in praising this title now, when it won't hit stores until May 9? By raving about the next best thing—a record that is not only available already, but is being showcased with a CD-release party, at Conor Byrne Pub on Saturday, March 4: Slow Down Summertime, by local artist Datri Bean.

Featuring 10 original compositions, the jazzy Americana of Slow Down Summertime should delight fans of Holland, as well as Norah Jones, Nellie McKay, and Rickie Lee Jones (in her less outré moments). Bean's unpretentious voice is casually complemented by her laid-back piano style, brushed snare drums, and clarinet; her interaction with the latter is especially beguiling, at times recalling the dynamic between Billie Holiday and Lester Young. "My favorite vocalists are Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, for their phrasing and sincerity," confirms the singer-songwriter. "I like the laziness of Leon Redbone's voice, as well."

Oddly enough, Bean had limited exposure to jazz in her youth. "I grew up in a land of commercial country radio," she recalls. "Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I grew up, has no live music, except in the summer, during their large rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days. I saw all the big, sappy stars, in all their glitzy glory. I even got Wynonna Judd to autograph my cowboy hat when I was 7 years old."

Unlike those Nashville stars, Bean developed a unique voice, as a vocalist and a songwriter, too. Her arrangements may be modest, but she embraces experimentation, dabbling in blues on "This, Like Every Other Sunday," and integrating instruments like mandolin and melodica without sounding twee. Her tunes are memorable, but not instantly so, reflecting her appreciation for Duke Ellington and Hoagy Carmichael. And she knows how to spin a good yarn, setting the poignant "Jim's Giant Truck Stop" in the restroom of an interstate gas-and-grub.

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In light of McKay's recent record-company drama (her label, Columbia, dropped her on the eve of releasing her sophomore album), Bean holds no illusions about graduating beyond the DIY realm. "I don't think the majors are a great place to look if you want to hold on to your artistic independence, or do something unusual," she concedes. "I've been listening to Randy Newman lately, and I keep thinking, 'This guy is brilliant, but he could never get a deal these days. He's just too weird.'"

kurt@thestranger.com

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