This is California native Mary Ann Douglas' second album and, like her first, it's made up entirely of her own compositions. And also like her first, it survives the risk of limiting an entire CD to a single artist's originals. As evidenced by Sensory, Douglas is an excellent tunesmith and a fine vocalist. She continues to bring San Diego's finest musicians into the studio with her. Especially important to the success of this album -- as he was on the first -- is Mike Wofford, a notably competent accompanist, arranger, and undervalued pianist in his own right.
While her 1997 recording True Stories was very good, this endeavor reveals a greater maturity in the compositions. More musical forms are explored, like the bossa nova beat on "We Are the Song" and "I Am Content." She successfully takes on the blues with "Nothing but Strangers," with John Rekevics' mournful sax helping to establish the distinctive aura that the musical form creates. Douglas and Rekevics get some help on the last few bars from Rephael Harp's harmonica. This is one of the more outstanding tracks. There are more ballads here than on her first CD, such as "Survivors" (again featuring the sax player), in which Douglas informs her former lover that she still wants to be friends even though "It's not love, but maybe habit/I don't know." There's even a bit of R&B on "Treat a Lady Special," with Peter Sprague's guitar laying down funky chords and runs. More good stuff. The bass of veteran Bob Magnusson is also an essential ingredient in the success of this session.
The icing on the cake is that Douglas can sing as well as she writes. Depending on the tune, she shows the influences of several singers who have preceded her, including Peggy Lee ("I Don't Think I Can Do This Anymore" and "Leave You With a Smile," which sounds somewhat like "Fever") and Blossom Dearie (although not as breathy). Her phrasing, timing, and diction are impeccable. This is straight singing; no scatting here. Armed with a bushel full of good tunes and first-rate musical neighbors playing the instruments, Mary Ann Douglas has turned out another winner with Sensory. Recommended.