This has been the year when country (whatever that is) and soul (you know it when you feel it) merged to a degree seldom before experienced—smooth, captivating, and absolutely gorgeous. Taylor Rae isn’t Yola or Amythyst Kiah, but dang, isn’t she good?
When hearing the lead track “Windows,” one is reminded a bit of Edie Brickell esoteric wordplay and delivery, while later in the album Carole King, Brandi Carlile, and Rickie Lee Jones are brought to mind.
Recording in Nashville but based in Austin, Rae isn’t afraid to dive into (or deconstruct) relationships and emotions, laying bare the resulting rawness. Select numbers are pure country in lyrical tone, the soul overtones embracing the narrative poetry in silkiness. Elsewhere, the album gives a bit of South American jazz vibe (“5:25,” and a song most obviously about dealing with our inner child as we mature…or fail to.) The album feels quite alive, with “Just Be,” one of several truly memorable songs, sounding like a relaxed jam between highly talented friends; this country-bluesy reflection is another favourite, and as with all the songs features wonderful key work (Chris Nole) and guitar leads (David Flint.)
Rae’s lyrics range from innocently flippant and clever (“…it’s not the caffeine, its your messy hair and the gap between your teeth,” from the appealing “Fixer Upper,” which isn’t about a home) to aching honesty (“But I can’t keep up with this life, Living in the shadow of your vein” and “By letting you stay, I’m stealing from myself,” from Letting You Go.”) The oldest song on the album, “Forgiveness” is also maybe the loudest, and contains the recording’s harshest line, “There is no room in my bed for your forgiveness.” An earnest album, Mad Twenties captures an artist blooming from experiences.
Hammond B3 (the free-ranging, playful and aware “Home on the Road”) is well-utilized, and despite the wide range of sounds and flavours, Mad Twenties works as a cohesive reflection of a vocal artist and songwriter’s kaleidoscope of experience.