Dara Tucker – Oklahoma Rain
(Watchman Music 006. Review by Peter Bacon)
Dara Tucker is a singer and composer. Whether the fact that she is based in Nashville and still regards Oklahoma as home are the reasons, I can’t be certain, but she certainly brings a fresh approach to jazz-inflected singing with a big sky atmosphere to the soundscapes she and her band create.
Tucker’s singing style mixes jazz and R’n’B but without the mannered inflections that each genre can bring out in some others, and adds tinges of gospel and country; at time her tone reminds me vaguely of that other singer/songwriter with Nashville connections, Mary Chapin Carpenter, but then at others she sounds nothing like that.
Similarly her band, a rhythm section with some added strings in places plus occasional saxophone and harmonica decoration, treads its own road, determined by the songs themselves rather than any particular conventions of genre.
The up-tempo Radio – “they’ll never play it on the radio” is the chorus hook – shows Tucker is comfortable at speed and the instrumental setting is more in a jazz vein, while the throughly old-school ballad I Fall – a duet with Kevin Whalum – allows her to indulge the richness of her vocal timbre and clear, relaxed phrasing. The title track has acoustic guitar and piano loping along and Tucker soaring in harmony with herself over the top.
If there is a slight downside to the album it lies, as so often, with singers who choose to write their own lyrics, with the words. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them, but they feel just too easily interchangeable with other romantic pop lyrics.
This is Dara Tucker’s fourth album and the act of stretching from jazz towards an Americana direction shows greater potential for originality – no one else seems to be operating in this particular territory.