Toby Lightman

Bird on a Wire

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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown

Toby Lightman has definitely done some maturing since her debut came out in 2004. While her voice still has the same rich qualities that gave Little Things so much promise, with Bird on a Wire she's moved away from poppier, drum-machine-friendly songs to country- and R&B-laced music that not only continues to show off her voice -- a mix between Shelby Lynne, Pink, and Norah Jones -- but her skills as a songwriter as well. It's a fun album that explores different genres without losing its overall focus, much in part thanks to production work from Bill Bottrell (who did Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club, as well as Lynne's I Am Shelby Lynne) and Patrick Leonard (who's worked with Madonna, Rod Stewart, and Natasha Bedingfield), both of whose influences can be distinguished on practically a track-by-track basis. The Bottrell-produced lovely "My Sweet Song" is pure Patsy Cline, while Leonard's "Round & Round" is full of attitude and radio-friendly rock hooks à la M!ssundaztood. No matter the position Lightman is taking, from brokenhearted to independent, it's her voice, strong and versatile, that carries the album along. Her excellent, emotional harmonies work well with the lush string arrangements that are found on much of the album, and the keyboards and bluesy guitar rhythms add a nice soulful element to the modern adult rock, as if she would be as comfortable in Ryman Auditorium as she would at Madison Square Garden. She moves from slower, introspective ballads ("One Sure Thing," "I'd Be Lost") to confident and assertive anthems ("Overflowing," "Don't Wake Me") without losing stride. Bird on a Wire's an impressive piece of work from a talented artist who's grown completely into her voice and herself, subtly complex while still retaining the passion and immediacy that makes it such a good listen, touching listeners emotionally as well as intellectually, a feat that's truly hard to attain and absolutely deserves to be praised.

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