Tina Marzola,
She's Ready
(Panhandle House, 1998)

Tina Marzola is not only ready, she's already there. An accomplished songwriter with a gorgeous voice, Marzola (of Dallas, Texas) has produced a fine first CD. Thanks to Marzola's considerable skill as a songwriter, coupled with radio-friendly production from Erik Herbst of the Panhandle House, Marzola's album She's Ready can co-exist comfortably with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Lucinda Williams on CD changers and radio playlists.

Marzola's lyrics are richly detailed with everyday observations that can't help but make you smile, such as "my calico cat and the old Beatle tune that Mama sang by our beds." Her warm, soulful voice embraces the listener, and she's too good a songwriter to lapse into structureless introspection.

Her roots-rock sound is smooth and polished, achieved by a large supporting cast of pros including Herbst on guitars, harmonicas and programming; Stephen Aument on acoustic guitar and piano; David Sims on drums and guitars; Milo Deering on pedal steel, mandolin, dobro and fiddle, and Christopher T. Peake on bass. Marzola plays acoustic guitar as well and, most importantly, wrote all the songs.

At times, despite the professionalism, one can tell that this is an independent and grassroots album. One clue is the liner notes, which are very personal and could strike some people as overly so. However, I found myself really liking Tina and wanting to know her better as a result of her openness. In fact she reminds me, both in style and substance, of Beth Neilson Chapman.

For me, the most successful tracks were the "big" ones -- which may come as a surprise to someone who's given to quiet instrospection. "When He Dares to Dance With Fire" sounds like a hit song to me. "Lover's Leap" and "She's Ready" have similar energy. Continuing to aim high -- writing the strongest songs she can -- will continue to increase her following.

I learned from her website that Tina Marzola returned to her musical passion after a serious illness. She's also a mother of four. Challenging and life-affirming experiences like these, coupled with songwriting savvy, can mean great music. After listening to Tina Marzola's first album, I believe she's ready to make even more of it.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002