T.S. Baker,
Through the Shadows
(Go Figure, 2003)

Through the Shadows is T.S. Baker's debut solo album, but she's no beginner when it comes to music. This singer, musician and songwriter began studying piano at age 6, added guitar in her teens and capped off her formal music education with a degree in music. Her music industry experience has included stints in production, arranging, studio management and music instruction. As half of the New England folk duo Stan Moeller & T.S. Baker, she spread her talents around for much of the 1990s. Now, with Moeller off pursuing visual arts endeavors, Baker begins a new page in her musical career with 11 original songs (all written or co-written and produced by Baker) here.

The instrumentation on this country/folk disc includes a full range of strings to back up Baker's guitar, piano and vocals. Additional vocalists provide harmony on several tracks, but Baker's own voice is where the spotlight shines. The arrangements provide just enough enhancement to complement the mood of each song. Through the Shadows doesn't have the sparse feel of many debut folk discs, nor does it have the overproduced sound that sometimes comes with the country genre. It is a successful mixture of the two often-joined categories of music.

The moods in this collection range from the percussive guitar, decisive lyrics and slight bitterness of "My Private War," an end-of-the-line song that allows for no victims, to the gratitude, adoration and comforting piano of "You Save Me." Most are emotional, first-person accounts of life and relationships.

Baker's voice shines on the slower songs. She has a lightness and purity to her voice, particularly at the top end of her range, which is reminiscent of Allison Krauss or Shawn Colvin. With some singers, that lightness fades into a thinner, sharper sound, but Baker maintains a strong, perfectly pitched tone throughout her range. The two tunes that really stand out vocally are also the shortest of the group. "Save for the Moon" is a beautiful, simple guitar and vocal piece that you don't want to end. "Heaven" should automatically start playing every time you see a rainbow or are in the company of angels (if you're into that kind of thing).

Through the Shadows is a pleasant experience that aims toward the pop end of the country/folk genre without sacrificing quality in musicianship or songwriting. The artist's considerable experience and talent makes this a much better than average debut, and I imagine there's lots more where this came from.

- Rambles
written by Valerie Fasimpaur
published 19 June 2004

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