(05 January 2009) Tara MacLean has been busy re-establishing her solo career the past two years. On the heels of her work on the second Shaye release Lake of Fire and supporting tour, she and her new soulmate traveled extensively and she gave birth to her second child. On top of this, she released a digital-only EP entitled Signs of Life and completed her latest album Wake (Nettwork Productions (Canada) 0 6700 30794 2, 2008) incorporating all of the tracks from the EP. Tara also contributed the song "Here And Now" to our Sirčnes (Spectacle/Neurodisc (USA) SPC20002, 2008) compilation album.
Tara's first two solo albums Silence (1996) and Passenger (2000) drew significant attention from female vocals enthusiasts and online publicity from the Ectophile's Guide with favorable comparisons made to Sarah McLachlan and Lava Hay. Some even coined the term "the Nettwerk sound" to characterize vocally laden singer songwriter work from Canadian artists. MacLean's first two albums are richly arranged and extremely accessible.
Wake is more sparsely arranged than Tara's earlier solo recordings and far less instrumental than her work with Shaye. Backing self-harmonies often accompany piano- and light guitar-based arrangements. While our editors were provided a CD to work with, Wake is a digital release. Tara (acoustic guitar, vocals) is supported by producer Bill Bell whio is credited with guitars and "everything else."
Other artists credited on the release include Kevin Breit (guitars), George Koller (bss, dilruba, cello), Andy Stochanski (drums), Kevin Hearn (piano, synth, accordion, rhodes, wurlitzer), Richard Evans (piano) and Mike White (trumpet). The album was financially supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canda Music Fund) and Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters.
The album opens with "Wait It Out," a very accessible number that re-exposes the listener to Tara's dulcit tones. The melody from the track "Here And Now" is very memorable and is certain to catch attention. "Got A Light" is equally catchy. Mike White's trumpet solos during the instrumental breaks are tremendous. The unique chord progressions coupled with Tara's powerful lead and harmony vocals and rich guitar-based arrangements make "Over And Out" an album standout. The electric guitar solos during the instrumental bridge are also tremendous.
The emotionally wrenching "If I Don't Have You" and "Carve" are most illustrative of Tara's skill in creating gentle ballads, perfectly suited for the Sunday Morning Coffee House setting. These are timeless classics that stand today as well as those tracks Nettwerk included on the 1994 Slowbrew-Music For A Cafe Culture compilation. Soft percussion, slide guitar and piano blend perfectly during the instrumental bridges.
In contrast, "Mad World" is a down tempo but accessible pop-oriented verse chorus tune with Tara's vocal work presented more up front soaring above the instrumentals. The album concludes with radically different tune entitled "Generation Z." A modern rap-like song, significantly different than everything else on the album, the electronic arrangements and processed vocals alternate with vocal harmonies to show the diversity of Tara's talent. It was brave and thoughtful of Tara to include a track like this on the album.
Tara MacLean's busy life as a life partner and mother has retained a spot for songwriting and recording. Her album Wake clearly illustrates professional growth and development. Nettwerk Productions has a knack of identifying and retaining top female singer songwriters. We are going to hear more from Tara MacLean. Count on it.