Austin 360 Review: “Absence of Blame”

Sara Hickman
‘Absence of Blame’
Grade B-

“Love Is There,” the soaring, uplifting first track off “Absence of Blame” from much-loved, perennial Austin singer-songwriter Sara Hickman, is something of a bait-and-switch. With its chorus of background vocalists, it has the vibe of a gospel number, as Hickman reassures us that love is there, ever-present even “in the broken places/in the empty spaces.”

But not all of “Absence Of Blame” is as straightforward. The slow, acoustic “Betrayal: Suitcase” is a little more ambiguous, and Hickman dives into infidelity and heartbreak on “Infidelity: Before You Change Your Mind,” the damage wrought by suicide in “Suicide: Blown Away,” and all manner of dysfunction and self-destruction on “Family Dynamics: Broken.” The sound is just as mercurial, from a Neil Young guitar riff on “Prison: Edentown” to the jazzy keys and R&B atmosphere of closer “Gratitude: I’m So Glad You Came Along.” It’s that adventurousness – both sonic and lyrical – that redeems “Absence Of Blame” when the album doesn’t quite hold together, whether on the heartfelt but overly subdued “Juliet and Juliet” or the too-standard “John Lennon: Last Of A Dying Breed.”

Reprinted from Austin 360

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