Toni Price


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If there was ever a female voice that conveyed the diverse qualities of the fertile Austin, TX music scene, Toni Price would be on anyone's short list for the honors. On her second album she wraps her lazy, husky drawl around some terrific material, much of it penned by Gwil Owen who wrote or co-wrote seven of these 13 tunes. Price also utilizes the cream of the city's extensive crop of musical talent with drummers Barry Frosty Smith, Doyle Bramhall ,and Lisa Pankratz joining fiddler Champ Hood and guitarists Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Casper Rawls, David Grissom, and Derek O'Brien (who also produced) on a set that mixes country, folk, jazz, torch, blues, rock, and twang with an effortlessness unique to Austin's distinctive groove. As an interpreter, Price doesn't write her material but she owns it nonetheless. Other than a rollicking cover of Dylan's "Obviously 5 Believers," the material is obscure and in the case of Owen's contributions, seems crafted specifically for her voice. And what a voice it is. Price's Southern influences are reflected in a style that ranges from sexy to sassy, yet stays soulful regardless of the song's genre. Nothing is rushed and the groove is predominantly low-key even on the more upbeat tracks. Price convincingly digs into rockers such as the opening "Dean and Brandy," a tale of two lovers that run afoul of the law and then each other, but seems most comfortable in ballad mode. Owen's "Something" (not the Beatles' song), with its acoustic mandolin and just the hint of percussion is a perfect vehicle for Price's high lonesome moan and is an album highlight. The jazzy near bluegrass of the energized "Too Much Coffee," is, like its titular beverage, a caffeinated romp that leaves room for some steamy picking on acoustic guitars and fiddle. Price is at her best when she dives into slower, more delicate material such as "Bluebird" (not the McCartney tune), where her voice floats above the sparse guitars and fiddle. Those looking for a capsule description of Austin's music need only spin Hey for a glimpse into the city's rootsy vibe and eclectic sense of Americana.

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