Kim Taylor doesn’t appear at first glance to be doing anything that thousands (millions?) of other people also do: play guitar, sing songs, release albums. I have no doubt that the so-called “freak folk” movement—of which she is most definitely not a member—was begun at least in part as a way for a guitar-toting singer/songwriter to stand out in the pack. I mean, there are only so many chords, only so many ways to say that love goes bad over time. Sounding bizarre and off-kilter at least spices things up, and it’s (let’s face it) a lot easier than figuring out how to stand out the way that Taylor does: by writing arresting songs and singing them with spirit and nuance.
“Little Miracle” grabs attention from its first strummed chord, which carries a bit of dissonance with it, beginning the song slightly off its own home key (always an effective move). The dusky urgency in her voice demands even more attention—as, it must be said, does the opening line. Just about the surest way to have a listener’s eyes glaze over (well, this listener, anyway) is to start immediately singing about yourself. Because at that point, out here I’m like, “Well, who are you, and why do I care?” Taylor hits the ground singing about something else: “This is not the end, is not the end,” and of course we don’t know what isn’t the end of what, but that doesn’t really matter. And now we can see the value of the musically uncertain landscape we’ve been thrust into, as it mirrors and enhances the lyrical uncertainty. She’s making what sounds like a firm assertion but she has to say it twice, which undermines her conviction. Likewise she plays with the melody, offering subtle variations of the primary phrase that both give the impression of spontaneity and augment the song’s lingering irresoluteness. The lyrics, meanwhile, end up offering only the barest sketch of narrative; far more drama is happening between the lines than in the words. (I happen to like when songwriters use very simple words and yet still don’t reveal exactly what’s happening.) And don’t by the way miss the smart, unexpected organ break (1:25), which likewise adds layers of impact to this brisk, appealing song.
Kim Taylor, previously featured here in December 2005, lives in Cincinnati and actually runs a coffee house there (The Pleasant Perk, in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood) when she is not writing, recording, or touring. “Little Miracle” is the title track to her new album, her third full-length disc, which is slated for a September physical release. (The MP3 version has been available since December.) Thanks to Kim’s management for the MP3.