Jeff Talmadge,
Secret Anniversaries
(Bozart Records, 1999)

Jeff Talmadge has created in Secret Anniversaries a near-perfect album. The songs are beautifully written with passages that show his poetic ability, there is an excellent production quality which shows the hard work put into arranging the album, and a stunning melodic track includes guitars, drums, flutes, violins and cellos that add to the haunting quality of the CD. For all the good things I can say about this CD, I just had one complaint -- Talmadge's voice.

Maybe it's just me, but his voice is very flat compared to the melodies on the CD. He sings with a storyteller's quality -- as in attempting to speak a story while attempting to sing. The only thing I can compare it to would be Johnny Cash without the rich timbre. But like I said, that is my only complaint. Songs of regret such as "Hold On" remind you of all the people you ever knew that touched your life in some way and how easy it is to let those people go. In fact, most of the songs have something to do with loves lost, goodbyes and hopes. It's the kind of album you want to listen to when you've lost someone and need a soundtrack. The music is a wonderful blend that perfectly sets the mood.

I found myself comparing Talmadge to James Taylor -- beautiful songs sung with a discordant voice. Sometimes, it works in his favor, such as on the song "Midnight Flight," where the music and voice combine effectively to tell a story without any flaw pulling you out of the world. The irony in "Here's a Letter That You Can't Send Back" gives you the history of a tumultuous affair with no dirty details. Finally, I can't say enough about the instrumental "Adeline," which finishes the album. Jeff Talmadge drew together a very talented group of musicians who shine on this track.

I honestly believe that Talmadge has a bright future in music. There were brief instances where his voice and the music fit perfectly. I think as time goes on, those instances will expand to fill an entire album. On that day, look out, because you'll see a new star in folk.

[ by Timothy Keene ]

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