Lara Taubman – Ol’ Kentucky Light
Satiny smooth, elegant, distinguished & classy – at times a blend of Broadway with a stirring soulfulness & yet there’s a folky element in Lara Taubman’s tone, with a grain of noir that sneaks in when least expected. It’s evident in the opener “Darkness Before the Dawn.”
Lara (vocals) continues with “Ol’ Kentucky Light,” a song, despite its title, with the bass line out of the jazzy confines of the blues & jazz clubs of the late 40s & early 50s. It creeps along with a plaintive Patsy Cline ghost instead of Billie Holiday & as she channels Cline through the jazzier shadows of NYC adds a touch of Edith Piaf…she succeeds admirably with the strange brew.
Nonetheless, the 10-cut, 42-minute Ol’ Kentucky Light (Drops Sept 16–Atomic Sound Records) produced by Steven Williams (drums/percussion) & Paul Frazier (bass/backing vocals/mellotron/FX) showcases the New York-based chanteuse as she delivers an expressive vulnerability with spirit. Always with a nice groove.
Harder-edged & with attitude “Silver Linings” stabs with Julie London’s fluidity. There’s a cool thread of Madeleine Peyroux — a warm rich jazz tone in Taubman’s lower register. Commanding, nice authority, always in control. However, in “Come To Me,” she hovers a little close to Sarah MacLachlan-Bird York style. But as laid out by Lara it’s a well-performed ballad with good instrumentation & a nice gospel edge.
Taubman has wonderful vocal color & when she hits her high notes they blossom like a morning flower. Some songs have a Ruthann Friedman tint – composer of 60s hit “Windy,” “People” (Constant Companion LP) & her strange late-career “Chinatown.”
In “Bird With a Broken Wing,” Lara Taubman channels a cross-section of Tom Waits/Brecht-Weill/Marlene Dietrich’s aesthetic. It’s different for her – a strange little narrative, with plenty of dark cabaret atmosphere. This woman is special because she has a style all her own. Pair that with originality & creativity & Lara’s not a singer-songwriter here – but an artist.
Highlights – “Mercy,” “Lamb To the Slaughter,” “Grace,” (marvelous), “The Water” (a duet with Walter Parks – guitars/lap steel/acoustic, baritone & electric guitars) & the balance of the musicians – Etienne Lytle (Hammond B3/Rhodes/grand piano/Wurlitzer/Upright piano/accordiotone), Gregory James Elroy McMullen (pedal steel) & Yvette Rovira (backing vocals).
Criticism – Cover art. Quite deceiving with the LP title – is it a country album? Bluegrass? Kentucky light? The images of Lara on the cover & inside spread are closer to a cocktail-lounge ballad singer, a jazz singer & a nightclub vocalist with a glass of sherry & tall red candles. So, it’s puzzling. Hopefully, this marketing faux pas won’t bite into her well-deserved success & the audience finds her richly luxurious music.
Photos courtesy Lara’s website. CD @ https://www.larataubman.com/