There's no fear as Sonia goes it alone

January 22, 1998|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Like Madonna, Enya and Cher, Sonia is a one-named singer. Even so, people often give her a last name, anyway. But it's not Rutstein, the name on her driver's license; it's "from disappear fear." As in "Sonia from disappear fear."

Not that you can blame them. After all, Sonia has spent most of the last decade writing songs and singing with her sister, Cindy Frank, as disappear fear. Initially a Baltimore-based duo, the group grew to full-band status over the years and continued to tour even after Cindy semi-retired to stay home with her husband and child (she still sang on the albums).

But with the newly released "Almost Chocolate," Sonia is beginning to build an identity apart from disappear fear. As she explains, "disappear fear was created by me and Cindy. It is about the harmonies created by two sisters." Naturally, says Sonia, all the songs she wrote for the group took that sisterly harmony into account.

"Almost Chocolate" is about a different kind of songwriting. "I was writings songs that were really more personal," says Sonia. "I wanted to just say, 'This is me,' to make something more of a personal folk album."

So "Almost Chocolate" is full of autobiographical material like "13," which seems to be a thumbnail version of the story of Sonia's life. The album is very frank about her loves and sexual preference, and while Sonia is proud of what she wrote, she does admit that the album is almost a little too personal at times.

"There are some songs where I think it would be a little more powerful to put it in third person, and [in concert] will phrase things a little differently on a song or two," she says. "Because I've already processed things myself, and I don't want [the show] to be some heavy, freakin' therapy session."

At the same time, she's proud of the immediacy of the album. Recorded with minimal accompaniment -- mostly played by Sonia, with occasional help from producer Danny Bernini, and harmony on three songs from Cindy -- it was completed in a single week. "It's very much a movie of that week of my life," she says, laughing.

Since finishing the album last June, Sonia has been polishing her act as a solo artist. She did a European tour last fall and is beginning a 50-city U.S. tour, accompanied only by her guitar. "I feel really close to these songs, and more empowered," she says of the solo setup. "So no problem there."

Beyond that, though, her plans are vague. She has a three-album contract with Rounder, so it's clear that she'll be doing more solo albums. But she has also begun to augment her musical career with time in Nashville painting.

"I was just recently commissioned for my second work, and this week I got commissioned for yet another work," she says. "Big paintings, too. So it's a completely different thing, and I love it."


WHEN: Sunday, 8 p.m.

WHERE: 8x10 Club


CALL: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 410-625-2000 for information

SUNDIAL: To hear excerpts from Sonia's new release, "Almost Chocolate," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6210. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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