Deborah McColl,
Naked in the Garden
(J-Bird, 2000)

Sometimes record labels create sampler CDs to give listeners a taste of the company's diverse musical line-up. There also are times, however, when individual performers release CDs which seem like samplers. So many different musical styles are offered it's as if the artist is trying to demonstrate just what he or she can do. It's not necessarily lack of focus; at times, it's a surplus of riches.

Deborah McColl's Naked in the Garden is such an album. From track to track, McColl, a former backup singer for Jimmy Buffett, moves through genres ranging from Americana to singer-songwriter to pop. The title and opening track is a slow popular-style ballad spiced with a twist of guitar and an unexpected, yet very much welcome, viola. (A later lush-sounding ballad, "If I Wanna Get Out," features a distinctive mandolin lingering in the background.) Immediately afterwards, however, a dobro and a mandolin introduce McColl's country roots on "Little Pearl." (Although McColl, trained and licensed as a psychotherapist, now lives in Los Angeles, she's originally from Atlanta.) Singer-songwriter style comes next with the third track, "We're Connected." What's after that? There's more of each genre; in addition, the folk tradition makes an appearance on "The Poet."

While it sometimes may seem an almost disparate blend of genres, McColl unifies the collection with her guitars; her passionate, lyrical voice; some earnestly heartfelt songwriting; and engaging musical arrangements.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]