Perhaps after 18 years and seven albums, singer-songwriter Dulcie Taylor’s time has arrived. That’s saying a lot, because for many of her growing fandom she arrived a long time ago. But in the past few years she’s really been on a roll, flexing musical muscle and an open heart as an adventurous, fearless songwriter.
A case could be made for her having truly arrived artistically on 2014’s brilliant Only Worn One Time, #27 in the year’s Elite Half Hundred poll. By then she had perfected the template that continues to serve her well on Better Part of Me: as your faithful friend and narrator opined at the time: “The roiling emotions of which she speaks in her lyrics are expressed not only in words but in the mix of electric and acoustic instruments in her backing band and in the shifting textures from song to song…”
Even more so than Only Worn One Time, Better Part of Me is her most challenging, and most deeply satisfying, album yet. Its striking, immediate sonics lend body to arrangements fleshed out by cellos and orchestral parts plus exotic flourishes provided by Cajons, dulcimer, mandolin and electric and acoustic slide guitars. That’s the music. The songs find Taylor edging, angrily, into topical territory with the roiling “Halfway to Jesus,” wherein she issues a heated plea that people take action to save the planet from extinction by climate change. Elsewhere, the artist leans into her strengths in often poignant dissections of matters of the heart. The dreamy title track celebrates a love affair at its most fulfilling; co-producer (with Taylor) George Nauful’s syncopated guitar solo adds an almost mocking commentary to the singer’s expressions of romantic angst in “Watch Me Hurt”; in contrast, acoustic piano and a pair of cellos fashion a consoling backdrop to the revealing introspection of the lovely “Dove Crying in My Window.” Memorable work throughout by an artist deserving to be heard by a wider audience. This level of craftsmanship and soulfulness simply doesn’t come along too often these days.