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Tara Jane O'Neil - A Raveling

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Artist: Tara Jane O'Neil

Album: A Raveling

Label: Acuarela

Review date: Jul. 10, 2006

Tara Jane O’Neil, moderately successful singer-songwriter that she is, sounds in turn like many of the paragons of Gen-X folk. Her voice is angelic like Alison Krauss’s, but she lacks the maudlin lyrics that pushed Krauss’s bluegrass over the top. Her delivery is matter of fact, Edie Brickell without the pop. The perfectionist wall-of-sound that backs O’Neil’s words evokes Lucinda Williams, but Williams paired her studio musicians’ virtuosity with the voice of someone twice her age and four times as world-weary.

A Raveling, a four-song EP on Acuarela, treads the same ground as TJO’s recent solo releases. In a perfect world, she would stay teamed up with Cynthia Nelson in Retsin, which was interesting because groups of girls playing music together are still rare, and because they seemed to have such fun together. God knows we all want another Joni Mitchell, a perfect goddess of song to unite the warring factions of hipster America into a sated consensus; O’Neil makes a go of it with “The Phoenix,” A Raveling’s excellent final track. Unlike the three pieces that begin the EP, the lyrics of “A Phoenix” are intelligible, and O’Neil accompanies herself with a relatively simple, single track of acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production still mars the song, as it does the others. A dose of simplicity could push Tara Jane O’Neil closer to grace.

By Josie Clowney

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