Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rose: Maria Taylor's Lynn Teeter Flower

An abridged version of this review recently appeared in Washington Square News.

Maria Taylor
's Lynn Teeter Flower derives its name from a childhood friend from her native Birmingham, Alabama. Fittingly, the album is a tribute to Taylor's southern folk influences, as well as an expression of her pop leanings.

The centerpiece remains her wistful voice, effectively dividing between understated lyrical delivery and ethereal backdrop. Opener "A Good Start" establishes the midtempo song that is Taylor was bread-and-butter on her first album, 2005’s 11:11. Taylor's previous work with Azure Ray serves as inspiration for the next track, "Clean Getaway," a country-tinged ballad supplemented with gentle acoustic guitar. While this slower track reinforces the album's introspective themes of love, longing, and loss, it diminishes the energy of its more upbeat neighbors.

The electronic element that bubbles beneath the surface comes forth in "Irish Goodbye," which features a lively breakbeat alongside Taylor's vocals and a churning guitar, which is later interrupted by a somewhat inexplicable rap. Despite the disparity with the quieter moments on the album, this experimentation makes it one of the album's more interesting moments, reminiscent of 11:11’s dance floor-friendly “One for the Shareholder.”

While nominally a solo album, Taylor also enlists the help of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, who co-wrote the track "The Ballad of Sean Foley," and contributes back-up vocals. Her brother and sister, bassist Macey Taylor and keyboardist Kate Taylor, also contribute, and producers include Spoon drummer Jim Eno and Now It’s Overhead’s Andy LeMaster. Thus, it’s a fully arranged album, but not fully realized in its subject matter.

While Taylor manages to balance melancholy and melody reasonably well, the album is a thematic retread of much of her past work, relying almost exclusively on the traditional singer-songwriting ethos of romance and reflection. While her charming voice and lush instrumentation make the experience consistently appealing, limitations in subject matter prevent Lynn Teeter Flower from being a standout.

Courtesy MPR/Ellen Lynde

But to be fair, much of my criticism is based on how much I enjoyed 11:11. Here are a few live tracks from that album, recorded on April 5th, 2006 at the Current, out of Minneapolis. For more in-studio goodness, stream her KCRW set. Maria plays locally on March 16th at the Mercury Lounge, as part of an ongoing tour.


1. Speak Easy
2. Birmingham 1982
3. Song Beneath The Song

Buy: Here
Previously: Bloc Party's A Weekend In The City

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