It seemed like a fine idea on paper: Apply the considerable vocal abilities of Carol Van Dyk, frontwoman for melodic Dutch rockers Bettie Serveert, to a rootsy country-folk setting. The self-titled disc from Chitlin’ Fooks teams her with Pascal Deweze of the obscure band Sukilove and a backing crew including standup bass, piano, pedal steel, violin and mandolin.
Few singers on the alt-rock landscape of the ’90s were more arresting than Van Dyk, but somehow her talent doesn’t quite translate to this project with the same emotional resonance. The tension and release that distinguished her work with Bettie Serveert is absent here; by comparison, her Chitlin’ Fooks persona sounds too simple and sweet.
The material includes a couple of overly obvious covers — the Flying Burritos’ “Juanita”, Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mississippi Delta Blues” — as well as a handful of originals that seem too obviously written in a traditionalist style (the opening verse melody of Van Dyk’s “The Battle” is directly lifted from Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changin”). It seems as if they may have been seeking to do something similar to Yo La Tengo’s 1990 album Fakebook — but this record pales in comparison, in terms of both selection of the material and effectiveness of the performances.