December 2002

Dulcie Taylor - Diamond & Glass
Black Iris Records 1181
Released: 2002

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

The field of female singer/songwriters is littered with talented participants. From stalwarts such as Joni Mitchell and Ricki Lee Jones to modern stars like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and counter-culture favorite Ani DiFranco through up-and-comers like Norah Jones, there is a plethora of singers and styles to suit every palate. So how does relative newcomer Dulcie Taylor get noticed?

With her debut album Diamond & Glass, that’s how. Its songs are at once dreamy yet thoughtful, intelligent yet tuneful. Mixing folk and pop, there are healthy doses of bluegrass, country, and rock intertwined within her songwriting. It doesn’t hurt that she is also an accomplished musician. Her work on acoustic guitar and dulcimer is pleasingly impressive, but it is the depth and insight she has infused within her songs that caught my attention. Even the titles of the songs illustrate Taylor’s foundation in real life, as opposed to the make-believe worlds less talented songwriters seem so often to be writing about.

For instance, how many times have you heard songs dealing with divorce -- from a child’s perspective? I can’t think of too many, if any. Taylor’s song on the subject, "I Have a Ring" plaintively asks, "I used to wonder, as I was growing, why does a married couple part? Why don’t they just sit down together, work it out and make a new start?" And she doesn't simplify the complexity of the subject, either -- she continues, "Now that I’m grown I understand it, day to day can be hard."

Taylor even finds new insight into a subject that has been covered to death, such as the emotional abuse heaped on one partner by the other. In "It Ain’t Love," she sings, "He says he loves you but he’s never home, even when he is you’re still alone. It ain’t love. What he’s given ain’t love."

Black Iris Records, Taylor’s label is new to me, but with a singer/musician like Dulcie Taylor combined with sound reproduction that accentuates the acoustic instrumentation used on Diamond & Glass, Black Iris has produced a disc that is both aesthetically and sonically worthwhile. It’s easy to pick out and follow each of the many varied instruments. And because Taylor's voice, full of nuances and layered meanings, is the star here, it's good that it was so well recorded. And, although the cover doesn’t say so, the disc is labeled HDCD for those of you to whom this matters.

If Taylor recorded for an audiophile-approved label such as Chesky, she would be hailed in high-end circles as a star. If she was being recorded by one of the major labels, her name would probably be on the cover of Rolling Stone by now. But she’s not, so she’ll have to stand or fall on the merits of her songs. Diamond & Glass offers a firm foundation upon which she can continue to build her resume. Intelligent, witty, and with a strong desire to write more than just plain pop songs, Dulcie Taylor has a bright future ahead of her. I look forward to her continued development in her next albums. But until they appear, I’ll happily continue to enjoying this one.