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updated: 10/17/2012 4:34 PM

Prettyman spins gold from heartache

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Associated Press

Tristan Prettyman, "Cedar + Gold" (EMI/Capitol)

It's not unusual for an artist to find inspiration in heartache. Some of the greatest songs are written from pain. What Tristan Prettyman accomplishes on "Cedar + Gold," however, is unusual because she sings from her broken heart with a voice that is absent of anger. Instead, there is both fragility and strength, retrospection and introspection, and through it all there is love.

Prettyman has gained a steady following with her first three album/EP releases. Her folk-flavored voice captures a carefree, California-style coastal sound and her songs have memorable hooks that celebrate love in all its forms. On "Cedar + Gold," Prettyman delves into the pain endured with the end of her engagement to singer Jason Mraz, and she sings with an apparent honesty that is liberating.

She sings of the shock of the breakup on "I Was Gonna Marry You": "I never thought you'd let me go/I don't even know the truth/Yeah, we were fine, we were fine/Then all at once you changed your mind." And on "Glass Jar," a reference to the jar that once held her engagement ring, Prettyman remembers the moment of the proposal: "We were sitting on the stairs, staring at the sand/You asked me once and I said yes/You said I'd never have to worry about anything ever again."

Prettyman's spins beauty from her pain. The melancholic chord shifts of her guitar carry her voice naturally. The influence of producer Greg Wells (acclaimed for his work with Adele, Katy Perry and others) is especially felt on cuts such as the opening "Second Chance" and the debut release "My Oh My," which layer instrumentation under Prettyman without overpowering her.

Just as the heartbroken are advised to grow stronger from the lessons of love, Prettyman has grown bolder with "Cedar + Gold." She may have lost a love, but she has gained something far greater.

Check this out: You've got to love the production fun going on all around "Bad Drug," a sexy, bass-heavy sound collage with a hypnotic dance groove. Put on headphones to fully appreciate the mixture of sounds and instruments surrounding Prettyman's rap on the bridge.

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