Putting her career as a sidewoman aside, the talented Joy Askew stepped out on her own with the 1996 release Tender City. Producing herself as well as handling keyboard chores, Askew created a full album with percolating world rhythms, confessional lyrics, and her own gorgeous voice. Obvious comparisons could be made to Kate Bush, especially on the lovely piano ballad "Little Darling," but Tender City is a memorable release in its own right. "I'm Still Looking for a Home" is built around a drum loop and features guest vocals by Peter Gabriel. The ethereal, sparse arrangement of "Cool Water" allows Askew room to showcase her crystal-clear voice, and she pulls off some impressive vocal gymnastics on the rhythmic opener, "Corrinne." "Strangebird" is a slinky, funky number, while e-bow and Indian harmonium -- courtesy of Chris Cunningham -- add to the wistful tale of an immigrant's memory on "This Ring." Solid all the way through the gospel choir at the end of the closing "Hands Tied Tongue Tied," Tender City is a rare album where repeated listens reveal new treasures.
AllMusic Review by Tom Demalon