Alaria Taylor,
Unfinished Business
(Angel Dog, 2004)

This is a phenomenal collection of songs and display of sheer talent. Alaria Taylor has a beautifully modulated, yet powerful voice, a blend of Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Rush, ideal for showcasing her other talents as songwriter and musician. She's undeniably easy on the eyes, too, for those to whom it matters, with hints of Debra Messing and a young Elkie Brooks!

The album opens on a pacy hand-clapping, foot-tapping number, "One Hour a Day," followed by a rock/pop number, "Immunity, The Turn Around," which starts with a near a cappella intro, then roars into life with a positive upbeat lyric. She changes pace with "Clinging Like a Leaf," a balladic number with a haunting refrain, which finds its way insidiously into the section of your brain that makes you hum snatches of tune through your daily routines. The timbre and quality of her voice really shines on this one, not an easy one to sing well, and she achieves it with believable melodic passion.

"Waiting for You" surges more power and volume into what is at heart another ballad; there is some sterling guitar work from Keith Pulvermacher -- a lovely riff that adds light to the depth of emotion engendered in the song. "Drowning in His Own Life" sounded incredibly familiar, but despite many listenings, I couldn't say why. It made me think, perhaps not unsurprisingly, of the poem "Not Waving, but Drowning," and Alaria's lyrics are stringent and bitter, while her voice is sweet and the rock style accompaniment is deep and lively, with an unexpected slow passage lifting it out of the common run. "Rachael" gets down to basics, with just Alaria's vocals and the delicate finger work of Peter Mulvey on guitar emphasising the storyline, without distraction, and showing the clarity of the vocals off nicely.

The tempo shifts for "It Hurts," and the harder beat works well with the lyrics, and the musical phrasing pushes the uncomfortable feeling she sings about into the head of the listener. Clever lady. "See Your Face" gentles down again, another love song, outside the usual round of love songs; the originality throughout the album is pleasing. "This Isn't What I Ordered" is a sarcastic take on a relationship and faith at several levels.

As I listened to the songs, I was reminded sometimes of Thea Gilmore, sometimes of Janis Ian, but Alaria holds her own individuality up high. She goes bluesy on "Lose My Mind," poking sticks at the medical profession and its profiteering. "Patiently" has classic style lyrics, but a strong rock/pop beat underlining her equally strong vocals, at times reminiscent of the lead number in a musical. The experience ends on "Unfinished Business," with Willy Porter on guitar this time, and striking percussion by John Calarco -- a bit of Suzanne Vega for the noughties, but Alaria's voice somehow, while being clear and sultry, nevertheless has a depth and grittiness that adds strength to anything she sings.

I very much enjoyed this album, and will be looking out for more from this talented lady. I suggest you do the same.

by Jenny Ivor
24 March 2007

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