For the follow up to her fine 2007 album Lullagoodbye, Taylor Mills has once against enlisted the help of her Brian Wilson Band colleague Scott Bennett, as well as her husband, drummer Todd Sucherman. Bennett, who was a key collaborator on Wilson’s most recent album That Lucky Old Sun, is responsible for eight of the songs on Under the Surface (Aqua Pulse Records). He and Sucherman produced the album and played all the instruments, save for the flugelhorn and trumpet parts on “I Wanna Stay Home,” and “If We Let Go” which were played by Probyn Gregory, another member of the Wilson Band.
As a songwriter, Bennett often mines the same territory that Bruce Springsteen did on Tunnel of Love, albeit from a pop perspective. His lovers are committed, but at the same time frightened, and unsure of what the future might bring. In Taylor Mills he has found the perfect foil for this material. Mills has a big voice, full of yearning, but she never feels the need to resort to the sort of “vocalizing” that many of the popular divas of the day traffic in. She sings the songs as if the message is more important than any glare that the spotlight might cast on her. It’s a very endearing quality for a singer to possess.
There is nothing overwrought about Under the Surface. In keeping with the effectively direct vocals, everyone involved keeps it simple and to the point. Though nice production touches abound, nothing sounds fussed over. Listen to “Just a Second” to get what I’m talking about.
One of the great musical joys in my life in recent years has been the opportunity to see a number of Brian Wilson shows. For my money, he has the best touring band on the road these days. Taylor Mills is an integral part of that ensemble, her voice a key component in the brilliant vocal mix. The band members clearly love Brian, and love playing his music. How could you not? I hope they stay together forever. I also hope that when the tour takes a break, Mills will hit the road to bring her own music to the attention of more people.
Under the Surface is available at iTunes, Napster, and through the Taylor Mills Website.