It has been three long years since we were given Dori Turner's fine but overlooked first album, Songbook. Recorded in an acoustically friendly kitchen with simple microphone at hand, it avoided all of the sonic entrapments one would expect—muddied sound, slight acoustic bounce, the rhythmic bubbling of coffee at the ready... Okay, the coffee was a joke, but when one skirts recording studio for kitchen the result is suspect. As it turned out, the kitchen-as-studio approach was practically genius and the result surprising. Songbook grasped that retro folk feel many try to capture but cannot—that caught-live-in-the-coffeehouse sound many of us seem to like (and get all too little).
Three years on, Turner is back, this time in the studio and obviously very much at home. And don't let the title of the album throw you. Songs for Dark Days may be reflective in places, a little somber in others, but the overall feel is hardly dark. If there be angst, it is hidden somewhere in the fourteen originals. Well hidden. Indeed, Turner slides into upbeat Americana on a couple of tracks (Savannah Smiles and Radio Girl, which ends with the trailer trash lines—"She grew up with a velvet Elvis/Hanging on her bedroom wall/Guess her Daddy didn't leave her/Much of anything at all"—pure Nashville). Throw in the country/folk Worse Than Me, which could be made better only by some tasty resonator guitar or lap steel by a slide master with the touch—say, Pat Wictor or Randy Kohrs—and you'd swear this was a product of Nashville and not Turner's home base of San Francisco.
Those would be the exceptions, though, for the rest of the songs are pure Dori Turner magic, dipped in folk and presented with a sensitivity guaranteed to turn off your critical genes. She has a voice, does Turner, and an unpretentious and disarming way of using it. Galileo Lied", for instance, takes you deep into the reflective pool. "Feels like the world is flat today/And Galileo lied/The skies are cold and dark just like/The day that Lennon died", it begins and before you know it you are slowing down—way down—but, oh, the beauty of it all. The light vibrato of the following somber Bright Red Ribbon reinforces that mood, as does Welcome Her Home. They are, indeed, songs for dark days, as is the title track. If these be downers (and they are not), please—drag me down.
Turner goes a solid 14 for 14 on this album. She throws in a Ricky Nelson-sounding Fool, the acoustic guitar strumming a light mid-60s rhythm straight out of that era. There is a little of it in the aforementioned Galileo Lied and in a few of the other songs presented here. It is a feel as much as a sound and it will strike a chord in many a baby boomer who lived on AM radio songs with similar light, emotional hooks—and probably in many others who love such songs.
Dori Turner has come a long way since those days spent in the kitchen—as a singer, as a musician, but mainly as a songwriter. If Songbook showed the potential, Songs for Dark Days is a realization. I say 'a' realization because she shows a depth beyond her musical experience and if she has it, as I truly believe she does, she will go where the music takes her. If we are lucky, she might just take us along. It is a ride I would hate to miss.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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