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Now Hear This: Revelation - Laura Taubman

Rating: ***3/4

There are two ways you could judge ‘Revelation,’ the debut recording from former visual artist Lara Taubman. You could judge it in comparison to her more obvious influences, specifically Joni Mitchell and Gillian Welch. Or, and I think this is a more valuable take, you could view it as a flawed but worthy first studio effort by a talented singer-songwriter with real promise.

Taubman has a terrific voice, to me more reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s contemporary, Judy Collins. She has none of the jazzbo tendencies of Mitchell, and her instrument isn’t quite as pure as that of Welch. That earthier quality serves her writing here, for Taubman is quite a good storyteller.

Hopefully, as she gets more comfortable in the studio, she’ll lose some of the affectation (so much sliding, and she has a tendency to drop into almost a spoken word vibe here and there). She also brings to mind another voice of the 60s—Joan Baez. Like Baez, Taubman sometimes over sings, lacking that gentle piece that could add some variety to her sound.

But as gifted a singer as Taubman is, her stories are at the forefront of this collection. Stories like opener ‘The Sound of Heartbreak,’ and the easy-going reminiscences of ‘The Conversation’ and ‘Cold Side of Spring,’ show us a songwriter of talent and insight. Taubman just needs to understand when to back off, vocally, to serve these vignettes better.

Two tracks are outliers here—the vaguely world beat of ‘Snakes in the Snow,’ and the unfortunate (but radio-friendly) pop diversion ‘Hookup.’ ‘Snakes’ is at least fascinating, sounding like an Appalachian murder ballad, and like the rest of the collection, Taubman’s backing players in the studio are tight and assured. The percussion on this cut, and several others, serve to move even risky musical ideas forward.

On the other hand, ‘Hookup’ just sort of…lays there, never really establishing enough of a groove, and wastes the best bass line on the record. But even this, less successful effort, shows an artist willing to take chances and refusing to be put in a box, so that bodes well for her future work.

The album actually ends with the title track, and it’s a stripped down thesis statement, with some tasteful fingerpicking on a solo acoustic guitar. The lyric to this song is simplistic in the way good folk music should be—direct and heartfelt. The whole package is worth your time, if only as a hint of what this artist might be capable of down the road.

3 stars. It could be 2 1/2 except the stand out tracks are so solid.

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