4 out of 5
DRIVE is a curiously addictive marriage of folk, pop and jazz influences.
These days Paula Held is based in Austin, Texas. Five years ago her home was Tallahassee, Florida. Before that came Miami, preceded by periods when she lived in Rhode Island and Philadelphia, as well childhood years when her family resided in Madrid and Seville, Spain. As for the source of her musical genes – her father was a music professor and composer, while her late mother sang.
DRIVE, Paula’s debut solo release, is a ten-song melodic marriage of folk, pop and jazz influences. It was recorded at EAR studio in Austin, and produced by guitarist/producer/recording artist Stephen Doster. The musicians aiding Held (guitar, lead & harmony vocal) and Doster (acoustic/electric guitar, harmony vocals) on DRIVE include J. J. Johnson (drums, percussion), Chris Maresh (double bass), Red Young (keyboards, Hammond organ), Ephraim Ownes (trumpet) and Dennis Ludiker (strings).
Housed in a three-way fold-out card liner, relative to I Need To Drive – the opening song – the four-way folded lyric sheet contains a dedication to Jeannette Walls, author of the autobiographical THE GLASS CASTLE (2005). As for the aforementioned lyric, it wrestles with the conundrum of ‘retaining a place one can call home’ while concurrently ‘desiring the freedom of unfettered wanderlust.’ The trumpet and drum propelled Shoop Ta Sho ploughs an American Songbook jazz influenced furrow, while the narrator in the ensuing slow-paced I Don’t Care About The Moon professes her love, although the object of her affection could equally be a friend, child or lover.
Having name-checked our nearest planetary neighbour in the latter song title, it’s worth referencing the album artwork at this juncture. On the front cover a basket appears to be coupled to a balloon by three rather tenuous looking ropes. The basket contains one female passenger her arms open wide as if to embrace the future. In truth, the basket is suspended beneath the moon. Fully opening the outer face of the card liner reveals that the balloon, basket and passenger are floating over the landscape of a populated planet. Pursuing the latter vein, on DRIVE there’s further mention of the heavens in Held’s song titles You’re My Falling Star, Watermelon Moon Eyes and Moon’s Too Bright.
Winter Blossom colourfully reflects upon the seasons, while the ensuing Tumbleweed Heart is an engaging tale of the enduring affair between a ‘sagebrush girl’ and a fellow with a ‘tumbleweed heart.’ Closing with Our Goodbyes, truth to tell, DRIVE is subjectively pretty much carpeted with love songs, although thankfully they are thoughtfully poetic and, on occasions, edgy creations.
Copyright Kerrville Kronikles 06/11.