A Very Special Solo Evening
On what was presumably a cool April 7 evening of this year, Fort Wayne singer/songwriter Sunny Taylor performed in front of an appeciative audience at the Toast & Jam Coffeehouse at 426 E. Wayne St. and sang into recording equipment a total of 14 songs. All were originals except Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone.”
The result is this CD, with the full name of Toast & Jam Presents a very special solo acoustic evening with Sunny Taylor. Taylor, 22, is the kind of performer that demands attention, though obviously not through volume or histrionics. Here, she is in complete command of her rough/smooth voice and simple but strong guitar playing. On some songs, such as the very pretty “As You Were Leaving,” she achieves a natural tremulo to her voice that is quite affecting. She recalls Janis Ian, with all the pathos behind the front that makes that singer/songwriter such a rare talent.
Taylor has become probably the best-known of the city’s folksingers and storytellers at a fairly young age. Her reputation seems to have become part of the music scene. Earlier this year, she was named Best Pop Band/Performer and Best Solo Acoustic Performer in the whatzup Best of 2000 Readers Poll Awards, which gives an indication of her versatility.
In the tradition of acoustic performers such as Ian, this is not always a cheerful collection of songs, although they are always powerful and the lyrics often insightful beyond Taylor’s tender years. But while she sings wistfully, Taylor obviously has found strength in her religious faith, which she turns into music that transcends what could be merely simple in lesser hands. Consider the lyrics from “The Child That I Am”: “What is good lasts forever/doesn’t always make sense to me/clear my mind of misgivings/steel me for the storm.” Later in the song, she makes a slight change in the lyrics, “Makes perfect sense to me.” It’s a very nice turn of events.
Because of its inclusion as the only cover on the CD, “Ain’t No Sunshine When (He’s) Gone” deserves special mention. Through simple chords mixed tastefully with single notes, Taylor creates a heartbreakingly sad tone that turns Withers’ soul rendition into much more of a lament. Perhaps because she can release herself, ironically, from her innate sense of melody, it seems Taylor allows herself more raw emotion here than on any of her own songs.
A very special solo acoustic evening with ... was recorded by Al Mozena of Tost & Jam and he and the others involved deserve praise. Her voice is always clear and strong, as it is in person, which is more than can be said for some of the local acoustic recordings turned out over the years.
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