Let's be honest. These days the music of James Taylor seems to be lost amidst the rubble of 1970s songwriter pop. Sure he still sells out stadiums and is played daily on American soft-rock stations, but what exactly are younger generations doing to keep his music afloat? After all, this is a man who is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has a diamond-selling album and despite a string of three critically acclaimed albums at the turn of the century, is truly only celebrated by Baby Boomers. Which is why singer-songwriter Amanda Brecker's new album Blossom is such a welcome change in a musical landscape dominated by glitz, glamour and shallowness.
Brecker is probably a new name to you and that's just fine. Her father Randy Brecker is a celebrated trumpeter while her mother Eliane Elias is a Brazilian pianist/singer and she's been making music since she was a tot. For the past four years, Brecker has found fame as an award-winning artist in Japan. Blossom, which also serves as a 40th anniversary tribute to Carole King's Tapestry and features a handful of the players on that very record, is also Brecker's North American debut. And what a debut it is!
The album opens tepidly with King's "Blossom," and immediately the tone is set. This is going to be a relaxed, jazzy effort with warm vocals, rich production and a veneer of coolness and gloss. Whether the credit goes to Jesse Harris or Brecker herself, the disc has few if any flaws. Standouts include the affecting "Something In The Way He Moves," a sultry and subdued version of "Natural Woman," and a near-perfect rendition of "So Far Away." From start to finish, Brecker never veers far from the script and while the songs do have a decided jazz tint almost all the moments are winners. Whether its the simple grace of "Sweet Baby James," or the tenderness of "You've Got a Friend," Blossom has a suppleness that gives it a life all its own. Subtlety and restraint are two facets criminally overlooked in contemporary music and both Harris and Brecker seem to understand that.
Being that she has a jazz background, her voice itself is assuaging and gentle and there are no deep emotional currents to it at all. While this works for the songs of James Taylor it can at times make the music of Carole King feel a little underwhelming. But with the help of some studio veterans and one of the nation's most underrated producers, Blossom finds its way and makes for a most rewarding listen. Having just been celebrated at the Grammy's last week, now seems a most perfect time to slip on the music of Carole King and dive right in. And Blossom is not a bad place to start.