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Sue Garner
Like Mazzy Star's first album, or Kristin Hersh's Hips and Makers, Sue Garner's To Run More Smoothly is a personal record, a set of songs so affecting and intimate that they demand an audience of one. Late-night loneliness, driving at twilight, moments consumed by the compromises you make for love -- the songs don't care where you are, they just insist that you listen to them alone.

In her band -- and what now sounds like her other life -- Garner is a city sophisticate, the bassist and singer for the convoluted New York avant-pop group Run On. But on her debut solo effort, Garner is a country girl making time as a townie, a woman from Georgia pining for the country while looking at flowers on a windowsill. "Miss my mom, miss my dad/ And they miss me too/ But I've chosen to live up here/ In a box with you," she sings on "Box and You," tethering herself to the South with a slight twang on the word "dad," but capturing the claustrophobic feeling of a tiny apartment in the quick-breath phrasing.

Garner's songs are based in folk and country instrumentation and melodies (she covers Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings"), but there is a worldliness to them: They don't sound like they were written in a bedroom. Like Beth Orton, who last year made her folk contemporary by infusing it with the un-self-conscious use of electronic music, Garner occasionally flirts with and acknowledges the experimentalism (repetition) and atmospheric noise (minimalism) that surround her in New York. Nevertheless, these are songs, not lab projects, and each is singularly focused: Garner's voice has a quiet, lilting quality, but she never sounds breezy. Her lyrics are strongly sure, rarely asking questions. "Take my heart with you as you go away," she sings on "Goodbye." She's so warm and sad, so strangely comfortable with the departure, that you wish you could, just for yourself and no one else.

-- Jeff Stark

Sue Garner opens for Mark Eitzel on Monday, April 13, at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk). Tickets are $10; call 885-0750. Garner also opens for Fuck Monday, April 20, at 8:30 p.m. at the Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St. (at Mission). Tickets are $6; call 647-2888.

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