Raspy rocker Melissa Etheridge's starkly confessional new album is her first since her widely publicized breakup with Julie Cypher, a tabloid-topping split between one of the country's most widely recognized lesbian couples.
Etheridge confronts the breakup head-on here, and the old adage about the finest art arising out of pain and anguish holds true. Skin is the songwriter's best album to date, powered by a combination of Etheridge's aching heart and unwavering determination to get back on her feet.
There is a story being told throughout the set, as desperate and futile as on the opening track “Lover Please,” as plain and simple as heard on the acoustic “The Prison,” and as resilient as the beautiful tale of acceptance “Down to One.” In the latter, Etheridge sings, “Sooner of later we all end up walking alone…My heart is a trader it led me down this road.” The song emerges as the set's most vital tracks and ranks with the finest vocals the rocker has ever recorded.
As the album progresses, she breaks beyond the pain, intent on getting on with her life again in the shimmering lead single “I Want to Be in Love.” It's pop-flavored, extremely melodic and sets her off on a course that soon leads to the set-closing, slide-graced tale of redemption, “Heal Me.” Here, evoking the spirit of “Amazing Grace,” Etheridge concludes “Now I see you can let the light in, you can begin again…I am a witness to my resurrection.”
That affirmation caps a fascinating musical journey, a tale of fury and despair, acceptance and rebirth. It's taken a whole lot of personal pain for Etheridge to get to this point, but she's emerged with an artistic triumph.