One would be remiss not to mention Sally Taylor's golden pedigree right at the top in reference to her musical debut. As the progeny of James Taylor and Carly Simon, she easily could have walked through any number of doors already propped open. She chose, however, a much more interesting and idiosyncratic route to a similar end. Initially avoiding the career path taken by each of her superstar parents, Taylor pursued an anthropology degree from Brown University before ever picking up a guitar, although she had been composing original melodies since the age of 15 and singing them into a tape recorder. Tomboy Bride, in fact, was not even necessarily meant as a career-launching statement. The album began life as a demo tape recorded by Taylor and friend Wendy Woo in a dilapidated, makeshift studio off a dirt road in the hills outside Boulder, CO (where she had originally ended up after following a boyfriend there), on borrowed equipment. It was, more than anything else, a way to organize her growing backlog of compositions and meant as a potential gift for family and friends. It turned, however, into much more than that. You could say the album helps to prove the theory that songwriting ability can, indeed, be traced to the genes. Musical talent may well be encoded in the DNA, but Taylor's music doesn't really resemble either of the bodies of work from her iconic folks. It is only, self-assuredly, her own. The album as a whole is a laid-back, rootsy, totally unassuming, and off-the-cuff affair, but that understated modesty belies the surprising, seemingly effortless stylistic dexterity of its tunes. There are a couple plaintive piano ballads and a couple folksy, acoustic guitar-led ones, but they are by no means fully representative of Taylor's musical range. Elements of jazz and lounge music surface, most captivatingly on the crepuscular torch ballad "The Good Bye," one of her finest songs. "Red Room" breaks into Celtic harmonies during its choruses, while "When We're Together" tackles playfully skittish bossa nova. Taylor may not yet show as much range emotionally, basically moving between sweet and innocent autobiographical paeans and more reflective narrative sketches, but the songs are well-observed within her limited (at this point) world purview, and frequently hint at a dynamic storyteller. The mournful and weary "Song 4 Jeremy" is a sad and downhearted waltz for broken lovers, stripped to its acoustic bones, while "Signs of Rain" is a gorgeous and subdued vignette that already hints at the bleakness of pain. It eases into a quiet place where it hovers to dole out beautiful and difficult truths. The epitome of a grassroots effort, Taylor individualistically bypassed the major-label quagmire to sell the album exclusively at her shows across the United States as well as through her website (www.sallytaylor.com). Aside from a few shaky and uncertain moments where the music turns too cute or derivative, Tomboy Bride is a rousingly subtle and personal artistic success, and it holds immeasurable promise besides. It is an album that Taylor is sure to trump on artistic terms as she grows more assured in her craft, but she may find it difficult to better the visceral and emotional purity of the music.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart