Barbara Payton

Enjoy the View

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Remember rock & roll? If you do, you'll immediately recognize it in singer/songwriter Barbara Payton's voice, style, and attitude. Enjoy the View is first and foremost a rock & roll album full of passion, pathos, killer chops, poignancy, great songs, and timeless sound. With a host of Detroit's finest players, including writing partner/ drummer David Jack, guitarist Robert Tye, producer and guitarist Michael King, vocalist Thornetta Davis, and others, Payton has made a record out of time and space. Payton's originals -- with and without Jack -- are solidly written and quietly remarkable as songs. In the grain of her voice, the earth shakes, the heavens quiver, and the body shudders with molecular recognition. The brokenness and determination of the title track as Mark Watson's B-3 swirls around the haunted, hunted ache pouring forth from Payton's bloodied-but-unbowed vocal are deeply moving and steamy, because in this broken heart lies the spirit of healing, eros, and the creation of a new self that can love freely in spite of the damage. But it goes far deeper than sex and love here; this is a song about hands in the mucky new soil of living, one that knows that the poetry in desire is derived from its messiness and wild, untamable heart. In "Bring Me a Life," with its shimmering snare caressing the lyric, Payton delivers another broken love song where she looks past the hurt into affirmation, hope, and the serenity of acceptance. Allowing the lyric to penetrate her delivery, her voice is as clear and large as a spring-fed lake, and she offers it to the listener as limpid and lustrous as a heart brimming with determination.

"I Didn't Mean To" may be sad, but it's also awe-inspiring with its countrified slide guitars ringing out over the strummed acoustics and Payton's open, naked statement of human truth in the face of desolation. Here is rock & roll as empowerment, as anthemic personal truth buoyed by electric guitars, keyboards, and a few well-placed thunderhead drums. And it's all in front with Payton; the subtleties are picked up after the listener has been rolled over by her monster truck of a voice and caressed in its empathy and compassion. The subtleties belie vulnerability displayed as boldness, openness revealed as purpose, and pure rocking sass as full of laughter and rage. The latter is displayed on her read of Patty Griffin's "Tony," and this version is not only every bit as powerful, its every nuance is true: according to her delivery, Payton has not only known these people, she's been them. This is a rough diamond, a polished gem that is proud of its flaws -- which is what all rock & roll should strive for in this age of pre-manufactured garage band ethics and sheen-and-preen production. Enjoy the View is a strident album of gorgeous rock music written and performed by an inspired band and a singer who knows her strengths; she flaunts the cracks in her voice as battle scars and trophies to be displayed and shared. Enjoy the View is a rare record to come out of Detroit because it embodies the entirety of its regal rock & roll tradition, not just a tiny sliver of it. Payton is the Detroit singer to watch -- and learn from -- as well as admire.

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