Wednesday, June 21, 2006

JANE TAYLOR: Montpelier

JANE TAYLOR: Montpelier (Bicycle Records, 2006)

It is good to see that, amongst the constant flow of dull pseudo-folk (eat your heart out James Bland!), there are some truly inspired records coming out, albeit on tiny imprints operating well below the radar of money-grabbing majors. This is the case of Jane Taylor’s superb Montpelier (Bicycle Records), which was recorded ‘on less than a shoestring’ according to the booklet accompanying the album.

Montpelier, named after the suburb of Bristol, not the southern French city, might have been recorded in no time in a barn somewhere in the West Country, but it certainly comes from the heart, and feels utterly human, real and earthy. At times reminiscent of The Sundays, this album collects eleven beautifully crafted songs with often very little more than an acoustic guitar and a piano to colour Taylor’s sweet-and-sour voice.

Hailing from Bristol, Taylor has spent the last couple of years playing in her native city as well as around the country and even performed at both Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe two years in a row. The legend has it that, on the day she walked in the studio to record her first single, she bumped into Angelo Bruschini, who has been seen playing guitar with Massive Attack, and who instantly offered to play with her too.

The album features eleven songs, all written and performed by Taylor, with the helping hands of a multitude of friends. The recording is intimate, giving the listener the impression to experience the music first hand. A rampant melancholy inhabit each and every song here, yet the mood is somewhat uplifting and heart-warming.

BBC Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker played Fall On Me, the opening track of the album, on his drive time radio show recently and received countless phone calls and emails requesting more information on the singer, and it is all to the credit of Taylor’s song writing. Songs such as My Street, 16 Points, Mirror Mirror, Blowing This Candle Out, Landslide or Brother are further proof of her musical and lyric maturity. What makes Montpelier such a remarkable record though is the restraint and control with which Taylor and her band interpret these songs, always emphasizing voice, melody and words above.

Montpelier is simply essential.

Jane Taylor (standing) and her band

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