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02/08/12

Kayla Taylor
You'd Be Surprised
Smarty Kat

Though her early forays were more rock and pop, in recent years Atlanta’s Kayla Taylor has, in partnership with guitarist Steve Moore, found her musical focus with jazz standards. There’s a slight, if persistent, twang to Taylor’s voice that reveals her Southern roots. But the effect, like an amalgamation of dewy Sophie Milman with fellow Canadian k.d. lang, is thoroughly enticing—pert, yet a wee bit pouty. It serves her well on an opening “Good Morning Heartache,” more gently regretful than maudlin, and is equally effective on a bossa-swung “Just One of Those Things” and a flirty “You’d Be Surprised.”

Moore and his piano-less band—drummer-percussionist Michael Dana, bassist Justin Owen-Head and saxophonist Will
Scruggs—draw on the Flamingos’ classic 1959 version to shape “I Only Have Eyes for You,” with Taylor ably following their shimmering lead. The lesser-known Gershwin gem “Treat Me Rough” is delivered with showgirl sauciness and, kudos to all four players, a shadowy “Devil May Care” finds her dancing among undulating flames.

But the closing track, a Moore-led “Blues Stay Away From Me,” seems plucked from an entirely different album. Taylor’s vocal, though powerfully mournful, feels neither down nor dirty enough, particularly when measured against the cut-loose wail of lang’s “Honky Tonk Angels’ Medley” version from 1988’s Shadowland.

Originally published in January/February 2012
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