Rock / Alternative
World So Sweet
Artist: Rachel Taylor Brown
Produced by: Rachel Taylor Brown
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was first introduced to Portland, Oregon musicianRachel Taylor Brown’s latest album, World So Sweet, I was told her style was described as pith rock. Having never heard of pith rock, I decided to research it’s meaning. Pith is defined as essence, crux, fundamentals, heart, etc. So I suppose pith rock is rock with lyrics designed to get to the heart of a subject. I sat down with the album, expecting some rather hard-hitting lyrics and music with some biting commentary on life. I got exactly what I expected and more.
The fact that the album’s title, World So Sweet is part of an old children’s prayer completely escaped me until I read it in a work up about Rachel Taylor Brown. That being said, I had a sense that there was a Christian theme to this album just from the very first track, Sweetness on Earth. The ethereal feel of this introductory track is palpable and the choir-like sound is quite uplifting. According to the In Music We Trust PR, “Resulting from a last minute call, fifty-eight people showed up at a downtown Sherman Clay piano showroom to simultaneously play fifty plus pianos, which engineer/co-producer Jeff Stuart Saltzman (with whom she’s recorded her last five albums) recorded. The group turned out to be a great pick-up choir as well.” What begins as an uplifting track becomes quite disconcerting as each piano fights to be heard and tunes slam into each other. And that’s just the introduction.
As you listen further, you discover that some amazing talent went into creating World So Sweet. The keyboards performed on this album are captivating and Rachel Taylor Brown’s voice is sometimes soothing and sometimes harsh, but the real wow-factor of this album are the lyrics. Each song tells a story, some of which we will understand quite readily like Modesto Waltz, a story about dying. The lyrics actually paint a picture in our minds. We can see a car accident with vultures flying overhead, the driver not really knowing what is happening, only just grasping that their time of death has come.
Some of the meanings we won’t hit on immediately. Sister Jean, for example - we can tell that her story is tragic and definitely has something to do with abuse and people looking the other way instead of helping. What we may not realize is that the song is about an actual person - a fifteen-year-old girl named Jeanette Maples who died as a result of abuse and neglect in Oregon. Scotland sounds like a song about a place the singer loves until you discover that it is really about Portland musician Scotland Barr who died at a young age from cancer. Mercy in Nebraska sounds like a parody of the church where words of comfort like “ Bring them all to me / Bring your burdens to me / Leave your worries and comfort yourselves” followed by a diatribe on the burdens of child rearing. I scratched my head at this song until it was pointed out that it was meant as a social commentary on the state of Nebraska’s Safe Haven Laws.
And then there is the story of Christ - Track 10 of World So Sweet has quite an interesting name: Didymus the Twin v. The Divine Sparkler. The song describes the story of Jesus from birth to resurrection, but there is a definite undercurrent of doubt in this song (hence the title - Didymus the Twin is otherwise known as Doubting Thomas for Thomas the Apostle): “ Mary had a son, oh Jesus / I'll tell you what I knew / Mary had a son, oh Jesus / And some of it is true.”
Every song on this album is meant to impart the good and the bad of life to the listeners. Rachel Taylor Brown writes about her thoughts - events taking place around her and the thoughts in her head. She doesn’t like to sugarcoat things and isn’t very concerned with how harshly others may take her music. She just writes and lets the song take her where it needs to go. In my opinion, she should keep doing just that. World So Sweet is a hard hitting rock commentary on the good and bad moments in life. I haven’t heard such a hard-hitting social commentary rock album like this since the days of Jagged Little Pill. It’s refreshing and new for me and I can’t wait to hear more from this artist!
World So Sweet is available now at World So Sweet | Rachel Taylor Brown!