RR LogoBeth Thornley Headline for album review

Beth Thornley album cover artOn Beth Thornley’s website there is a reference to the music from her first two album releases, being compared to a number of artists and bands, spanning several musical stylings and in listening to her current album Wash U Clean it is easy to see why that has been the case. On her current album Beth Thornley’s musical tapestries include the pretty “What The Heart Wants,” a gentle song, featuring Thornley accompanying herself on piano, drummer Karen Teperberg, trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, Rob Cairns wearing several musical hats (bass, pedal steel, guitar, keys) and Danny T. Levin adding depth with his euphonium. In contrast the fifth track “You’re So Pony,” which immediately precedes “What The Heart Wants,” is a power pop vocal, accompanied by slashing electric guitars, synthesizer and heavy backbeats from drummer Brendan Buckley.

Thornley, originally from Alabama and who now makes her home in Los Angeles, does not serve up diverse musical styles, because she is in want of an identity, but quite the opposite, like most good artists, her diversity signifies the talent that she possesses and she never spreads the musical buffet out so broadly, as to confuse the listener.

Beth Thornley is at her best as a poet on the song “Still Can’t Hide,” a mid-tempo song in which the singer appears to be searching for both a place that she can have her own little corner of the world, “We built a house of brick and stone / So that they couldn’t see us / So that they wouldn’t know / And we were sure we could be all alone,” and yet not become reclusive, but remain connected to the rest of the world, “But can’t you see, you got lots of company? / Don’t you know we are all fugitives and refugees.” The mood is mellow and violinists Daphne Chen and Matt Bowen, with cellist Matt Fish contribute to that ambience and create an ethereal feel for the song.

We are sorry but the baritone saxophone is not working for us on the title song “Wash U Clean,” as we find it distracts from the bite of the lyrics and the juxtaposition to the rapped verses runs counter, but in an unproductive way. We like baritone saxes, but not in this instance.

Songs such as “Everyone Falls,” are when Beth Thornley and her fellow musicians are at their best. She is introspective with her lyrics in such a fashion that keep the themes from becoming mundane or morose. The song explores the emotional scars that often remain after failed relationships, whether they be romantic, friendships or otherwise. As a songwriter Thornley likes to engage the listener by posing questions, as she does again in “Everyone Falls,” by asking, “But you know everyone falls sometimes; don’t they all?” and “Don’t we all fall?” She also uses words to great effect as she paints word images, “Time cuts a deep track through skin and vein.” Again strings are also used to greatly affect the mood with Daphne Chen playing both violin and viola and Matt Fish returning as the cellist.

“Never Your Girl,” is a song that cuts deep, tinged with bitterness more than sorrow and the words speak to not going back and restarting relationships that did not work out the first time and they recall the empty promises that were made to the singer. Beth Thornley’s phrasing imparts angst and the sense of “I am not going to put myself through this again.’

There are ten songs on Beth Thornley’s album Wash U Clean. Do yourself a favor and visit Beth Thornley’s website where you can purchase the album directly or you can visit iTunes or Amazon.

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