The inevitable comparisons to Tori Amos and Fiona Apple that have already begun to haunt young songstress Vanessa Carlton arenít just a combined consequence of her gender and her choice of instrument. The piano-pounding small-town Pennsylvania native ó who is said to have been 17 and living in Manhattanís Hellís Kitchen when she wrote most of Be Not Nobody, her debut CD ó favors the same dramatic confessional style that brought both Amos and Apple to prominence. Besides, she is a girl who plays piano. And whatever the rugged origins of Be Not Nobody, the disc has the polished Pro-Tooled production youíd expect from a heavily promoted major-label debut by a potential star ó the closing "Twilight" even features a full-orchestra accompaniment, replete with pizzicato strings.
Yet despite her tender age, Carlton is more than up to the challenge of steering Be Not Nobody in her own direction, away from the treacherous middle of the road where generic-pop prodigies too often watch their promising careers stall. For starters, she pulls off a gutsy rendition of the Stonesí "Paint It Black," which suits the Felicity-discovering-Sylvia-Plath persona that also emerges in shyly romantic, introspective, melodramatic fare like "Ordinary Day" and "Pretty Baby." She plays a convincing tough girl on "Unsung." And once you get past Poetry 101 lyrics like "If I could fall into the sky/Do you think time would pass me by/Cuz you know Iíd walk a thousand miles/If I could just see you . . . tonight," the discís first single, "A Thousand Miles," has a nervousness to it thatís both artful and alluring. Carlton still brings to mind Amos and Apple, but after all, thatís not such bad company to be keeping.