A review written for Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
By Shawn Linderman
Lynne Taylor's solo debut, Grace, marks a coming of age. Working for some eighteen years with several bands in several genres, Taylor has taken the hard road and paid her dues. In the process, she has found her muse. What she has learned about life and importances have had all the detritus stripped away. The artist's arresting voice and fluid piano deliver her wisdom with rare beauty.
Taylor is the first singer/songwriter I've heard in many years whose primary instrument is the piano. Like Carole King twenty years ago, the sound makes for a refreshing change from the predominance of guitars on the folk scene. She exhibits complete mastery of its dynamics, producing an unusually plush backdrop for her vocals.
The "folk" genre has always seemed to me to be the most open and tolerant of musical fields, where ethnicity, religion and lifestyle are appreciated for the flavors they add to songs. Lynne Taylor has a unique flavor to add: being a high yellow (light-skinned Black), she has lived on the lonely cusp; rejected by both the Black and Caucasian. Yet she maintains a powerful hopefulness, founded in personal strength, that resonates throughout the songs in this collection.
"Legacy" is the most autobiographical song. Lynne shares with us how the rejection was turned into love and strength: the legacy, rather than burden, that was handed down to her.
In "Trying," Taylor addresses the quiet courage of an unlikely couple: a woman who was abused as a child and a man of a once rebellious and irresponsible nature. In spite of the dimming of their dreams they labor on, shedding their tears and "Trying to keep the waves from breaking/trying to keep the waves from hitting the shore."
Taylor's characters often come from tough backgrounds. In "Voices" she matter-of-factly describes the drunks, fighters and hookers populating the childhood memories of the protagonist's neighborhood. The juxtaposition of such imagery and its presentation by Lynne's vibrato-rich contralto voice makes the impact all the more impressive. (And her vocal beauty really shines on the unlisted track that I'll refer to as "Spirit Knows." It is a powerful Native American protest on behalf of the beauty of earth and the sanity of mankind.)
It's not all "fair weather, happy endings" here. The opening track, "Cinderella" laments the loss of youthful dreams and the regret in becoming exactly that which you despised. You can feel the pain of those suffering through the dying of a town in "Backwoods."
Lynne Taylor's GRACE is one of the most intensely personal works I've heard in a long while. The album features gorgeous presentation, well supported by Ed Gerhard, Jim Tierney, David Buda, Chris Decato, Roger Ebacher, Stan Longstaff, Chris Zimpfer and Matt Taylor. Presentation aside, this is gut-level folk. They are songs about thee and me if our lives had been rougher; but we can still identify with the hurts, the joys, the dreams.