Azaima Anderson – Horse Sense


Of the three albums by Azaima Anderson I’ve had the opportunity to hear, I think this is my second favorite. Each has its charms. Each is distinct from the others, too. Yet, there is a lyrical magic that runs through all of her music. That is, in many ways, the defining element.

I love the lyrical symbolism of a horse to human on the opening title track. Pop music is the musical concept. There are hints of country in it, too. It seems a bit trebly in terms on the mixing. In fact, I’d say it’s treble-biased enough to be a little lacking. Still, the backing vocals and song structure make up for it. The music on “Time Wasted” feels a lot like Steely Dan. It does have a bit of a problem with the mix again. The lyrics talk about the time wasted in a go-nowhere relationship.

Delicate folk guitar starts “I Can Swim.” The mix isn’t a problem here at all. The lyrics seem to be more descriptive than anything else. They are nostalgic and a “slice of life” type of exploration. The cut does a great job of grounding the set, both lyrically and musically. Folk music is the idea behind the satisfying song “Angel,” too. It’s more of a flowing arrangement, though. The lyrics are empowering and spiritual.

Feeling almost like something from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “You Never Can Tell” has a definite klesmer sound to it. It’s bouncy, and a nice change. It’s just not really the kind of thing I like that much. The lyrics are definitely in the range of “everyday activities.” With “The Wall” the album rocks. It has an adult contemporary vibe, but in a rocking way. Somehow it doesn’t feel natural, though. It almost feels like the rock elements are a contrivance. It seems like Anderson isn’t exactly comfortably in that territory. The lyrics have a real universal emotional appeal, though. Everyone has been at “The Wall” at one time or another.

In a lot of ways the lyrics are the real shining start of Azaima Anderson’s music. “Boy” is a classic example of that. The words here are descriptive poetry. The music is folk with some country in the mix. That element along with the vocal performance stands tall, too, but those lyrics really are the stars of this piece. Descriptive lyrics on “Might Be Spring” are almost better than those on the last song. The sheer poetry on the whole album is great. This is one of the best examples. It’s a “slice of life” kind of piece with other meanings in flux. Musically, it’s a great smooth jazz piece. It’s one of the best of the whole set.

I have to wonder if the lyrics of “Family Values” are autobiographical. They talk about a man who gives lip service to “family values” while leaving his family for a younger woman, as his little daughter looks up to him. The music is poignant and yet cheery. That creates a dichotomy between the feeling of the lyrics and the sound that is presented while they are being delivered. This is one of the best songs of the album in so many ways.

Bouncy music like Irish folk is the idea behind “Jim.” It sounds like a story of a woman selling out her ideals to get her man back, but if you listen carefully, there’s a twist. I won’t spoil the surprise, but this is a funny song delivered in a suitably humorous way. It’s fun. The lyrics of “Scenes from a Kitchen” seem to showcase how two people in one relationship can have different ideas about the balance in that relationship. Musically, it’s another that has a lot of jazz in the mix. It’s a pretty and rather bouncy song.

Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins would probably be the best comparison on “John.” It’s a folk-like, sedate song. It has great “slice of life” lyrics. It’s one of the more beautiful pieces here. Given the competition, that says a lot. The closing piece is titled “How Much,” and it’s another rocker. I can’t help but feel, like with “The Wall,’ that it just seems contrived. Anderson doesn’t seem to be comfortable with this kind of rock end of things. Besides, it’s just sort of beneath the artistry that dominates much of the disc. The lyrics are also a bit “common denominator” here. I suppose it makes sense to close with energy, but I just think the song is lackluster and generic.



Review by Mary Angela Tobin