Don’t Darling Me Records
Genres: Folk, singer-songwriter, Americana
RIYL: Sun Kil Moon, Joanna Newsom
To make splashes in the music scene these days, you often have to reinvent yourself because your best is probably not enough to stand out. Kim Taylor’s been putting out records for nearly a decade, but yet somehow found a way to have her songs penetrate television shows such as Army Wives, and adored outlets such as NPR. With a stripped-down setup of mainly acoustic guitar, organ/piano, and simple percussion, how did she manage to find success in a sea overburdened with this style of music?
Part of it comes from Taylor’s strong writing. Most folk songs are going to be pretty similar; very simple chord progressions with vocal melodies and harmonies floating about in key. But what sets her work apart is the way that the background instruments are used. When she has everything drop out halfway through “Anchor Down,” you can sense when the other instruments will rejoin her, but yet, it still feels right. Are we merely used to this, or do we have an appreciation for those who know how to make a formula work?
There are traces of PJ Harvey, Cat Power, and even Sheryl Crow in her voice. It’s definitely a little raspier than what you’d expect from the typical indie female singer, bringing a jazz-like quality to her pipes. She was born in Florida, yet most of her inspiration comes from roots in Cincinnati. Her Southern-tinged accent gives a sleepy country feel to all of the music, and while her arrangements and vocal range are nowhere near as ambitious as Joanna Newsom, you can feel that some of the melodies are definitely reminiscent of Ms. Newsom’s work.
While there are so many delightful moments on this record such as the tremolo organ sitting under the finger-picked guitar lines, you might start feeling a little blasé by the end. The melodies and harmonies are quite nice, but at the same time, Taylor stays in a fairly comfortable range which lets her excel in her style of music, but pushes no boundaries. If she challenges herself more, her singing really could match up better with the bare yet interesting arrangements. There are moments in certain songs where it sounds like she might let it loose, such as “If I Am Wrong,” but she backs away from it. Kimberly, you have the range…use it!
The only other gripe about Taylor are her lyrics. On one hand, they’re extremely simple, which is appropriate for the genre. But at the same time, it’s not going to help carry the load; she will still have to rely on the arrangements to keep things interesting.
All in all, this is a solid effort by a talented artist, but she still has some more work to do if she wants to gain a bigger audience. Then again, maybe this Little Miracle might do it without living up to every critic’s expectations.
photo courtesy of bp2