Louise Taylor,
Written in Red
(Signature Sounds, 2000)

Louise Taylor's fourth Signature Sounds release, Written in Red, blends Celtic influences and bluesy soul to create a standout recording that Taylor's fans have come to expect.

From the rhythmic harmonica-laced opening track, "Cherry Tree," to the jazzy final track, "While My Love is Away," Taylor creates song after song that focus on evocative lyrics and fresh musical arrangements. Many of Taylor's lyrics reflect her strong storytelling ability, such as "His Hands," in which she paints a word-picture of the love between a woman who's been hurt too many times and the man she falls for. "Miriam Bell" is a Middle-Eastern influenced reworking of a traditional Appalachian ballad; Taylor's use of traditional ballads as a basis for her music is evident in the lyrical patterns she weaves, using repetition with subtle variation in this song and others, notably "Cherry Tree" and "Over the Mountain."

These lyrical variations are served well by Taylor's distinctive voice, which possesses a husky, smoky quality. "Written in Red" is a perfect example of an artist's vocal style matching his/her vocal quality; too often artists try to sing music that just doesn't fit them. However, Taylor possesses a voice that reflects maturity and wisdom, a "been there, done that" attitude that reinforces the lyrics remarkably well.

These songs are all well-structured; the music never distracts from the lyrics. Rather, they work hand-in-hand, as all good music should, with the arrangements providing background and counterpoint to the story being told. The simplicity of "My Dove" is grounded by a deep drum-beat and evocative flute lines, reinforcing the release promised through the lyrics. Most songs feature a basic combination of guitar, bass and drums; these arrangements are further enhanced by various other percussive instruments as well as organ, piano, flute and accordion, among others.

What this all adds up to is a great album. Taylor has created new challenges for herself, which she alludes to in the liner notes when she speaks of the influences traditional Appalachian and Irish music, as well as her admiration of the musicianship of Roy Bonnerville and Chris Smither. Written in Red proves that Taylor is up for the challenges she sets for herself; this is one album you shouldn't miss.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]
Rambles: 4 July 2001

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