The name of Maria Taylor‘s fourth solo effort Overlook derives from Overlook Road where her home stands in Birmingham, AL, and as such the album fixes itself firmly in a familiar location, embodying a sound created with a closeknit set of musicians plucked from Taylor’s close friends and family.
Recorded in her hometown at Ol Elegante studio with Lester Nuby III, alongside Browan Lollar of Jason Isbell’s band 400 Unit on acoustic guitar and lapsteel, Macey of The Mystic Valley Band and A.A. Bondy offering bass, banjo, organ and keys, as well as Maria’s father and sister on mandolin and vocals respectively, the overall sound and style is wide in scope. From her early days in duo Azure Ray alongside Orenda Fink, Taylor has grown a maturity of voice that still retains its childlike and girlish wonder, but too it remains one which is grounded by her long career as a musician.
Stylistically Overlook flirts with a great many genres but in a way that allows the album to slow seamlessly without any sense of whimsy or stop-start motion as she flits from the broken chords and thumping drums of opener ‘Masterplan’ onto ‘Matador”s chiming percussion and staccato notes. The record almost works as a chronological musical representation of growing up and coming of age, with the openers retaining a more experimental, typically indie girl band vibe. As the album spins out however the direction channels itself into timeless, classical songwriting, to the ’20s speakeasy, smokiness of ‘Bad Idea?’ and ‘Happenstance”s lament about leaving, while ‘This Could Take a Lifetime’, though not contented in self pity and apathy exchanges the daydreams of youth for the realism and often disappointments of adulthood.
With Taylor it feels like more of the same; any changes and advances in musical style are subtle and never particularly challenging. There’s a humble sense on Overlook that she is comfortable in the musical niche she has created for herself, branching out subtly here and there, and yet never trading in her signature style.