Azure Ray's Maria Taylor takes a break from her role in both that duo and the band Now It's Overhead with her fourth full length solo record, "Overlook". It's a rootsy record, with its share of folk and a strong country bent, but it also packs enough bite to separate itself from the pack of others doing similar music right now.
Taylor's fluttering, sweet voice is certainly part of the appeal. This album is not going to knock any walls down or break any new ground, but Taylor gets the most out of the 32 minutes she packs these nine songs into. The ballads are all rather exquisite and among the strongest tracks here, with "Happenstance" and its telling of 'this cold night in Alabama' a highlight. Slower tracks like "Idle Mind" and "This Could Take A Lifetime" are stripped down to their acoustic core, with touches of piano and slide guitar added on for ambiance.
On opener "Masterplan", Taylor explores a darker side with a solid lone beat in the background, sampled cut up vocals buried in each speaker and Lester Nuby III contributing attention grabbing drum fills. It stands, with the ballads, as an album highlight. The catchy country-blues of "In A Bad Way" features Nuby III on guitar as well.
Although I don't see "Overlook" making my Best of the Year list, it is another 2011 release certainly worthy of mention. An enjoyable mix of folk, country, blues and even some Southern rock, it ensures Taylor is an artist just as worthy of being heard outside of her band projects.
"Overlook" was released in the U.S. August 16, 2011 on Saddle Creek Records.