Jessica Pratt is a singer-songwriter from San Francisco akin to the folk musicians present during the socialist movements of the 1960's. Her message is perhaps more introspective than politically motivated but her sound resonates with those of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell; finger-picking and unaccompanied throughout (aside from a few over-dubbed harmonies). This LP, her debut, displays a lot of admirable characteristics and certainly doesn't rely on her predecessors, even if the comparison is obvious. It also marks the first release from Tim Presley's (White Fence) label, Birth Records.

The most notable aspect of Jessica Pratt is her distinctive, idiosyncratic tone of which Presley himself said, "I never wanted to start a label but there is something about her voice I couldn't let go of." She sings in a quivering, beautiful and almost conversational style which gives her a more distinctive platform from which to tell her stories – it distinguishes her lyrics from any generic restraint. The majority of the record is portrayed in this manner but in certain pockets such as hints of 'Bushel Hyde' and more prominently on 'Casper' she penetrates a higher register. In this way, she is exceptional. Her aesthetic is shrouded in darkness and laced with melancholy for the most part and the elevation to these heights adds a delicate and much needed counterpoint. The only shame is that she didn't do more of it.

On the whole her guitar sound is pleasant, clean and adherent to folk traditions. Her laboured rhythm evokes a journeying of some kind with subtle shifts rather than grand sweeping resolutions in arrangement. You can turn the pages of the record like a novel, discovering with each exploration a careful management of her emotions. There's a certain measured approach which doesn't surrender to shallow gratification, something to admire but it's perhaps too patient. Aside from a few almost unnoticeable shifts, the energy is generally muted adjusting briefly on 'Mountain'r Lower' to the slow chug of a horse-drawn wagon.

Evident on the aforementioned 'Casper' and 'Half Twain The Jesse' is a purposeful strike for a universal emotion. Be it sentiment, heartbreak or helplessness – it depends on the listener – and it doesn't matter which because you feel something. Far too often tracks come and go without any realised intention other than to exist. What Jessica Pratt can do, almost exclusively, is emote with powerful melody and gracious tone but the problem is the journey to find those highlights is methodical and hollow. There's a need for deeper shift in mood, clearer distinctions in guitar sound and consequently an assured display of eleven different tracks, rather than a collection which blurs together unintelligibly. Being coherent is one thing, but there must be a need for each track.

Perhaps folklore weighs heavy upon this record but I suspect it's an issue of production. Some of these songs come from as far back as 2007, so perhaps it's not even an accurate reflection of who she is today. Maybe it's a retrospective view of her journey, which it must be said is never unpleasant just misguided. There are many songs, at least half, which hold some resonance and therefore purpose. I would just question, what is she trying to say? The message is too vague and so are the arrangements. There's no need to destroy her style, but create a platform for her to explore her greatest assets which are her voice, her control of melody – particularly her higher registers – and her ability to tell a story. There are signs here that she could create something exquisite, but what relevance this record actually holds, I'm not sure, perhaps it's overworked in many ways.

Whatever Jessica Pratt does next will be exciting, there's no doubt there. Let's just hope she focusses, refines and accentuates what she does best. If she does, there's a folk classic waiting to be born.