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Things Worth Keeping
Artist: Aly Tadros
Label: Indie
Tracks: 11 Tracks / 42 min
You know, sometimes you don't need to make something new to be different. Look at the cars we drive. We are not flying around in our own sky cars . . . yet. They are still attached to the ground by four round, rubber tires. We don't use a joystick to steer, accelerate and brake. Nope, we still use the same old steering wheel and the tried and true method of using our feet to accelerate and brake.

So our cars still look and drive pretty much the same as they did 100 years ago. Nothing new there. What is different is we now have rolling resistant tires, power steering and adaptive cruise control. These new innovations would astound the makers of the original automobile. All that has been added is some creativity and new technologies.

Music, too, is still using the same basic instruments we have for centuries (in some cases), stringed, wind and skinned instruments. A drum still appears to be the same as it did 100+ years ago. Likewise, there is not much difference in the guitar, piano, saxophone, etc. What has changed is manufacturing techniques, and in some cases the materials used. The big variable is the people who now play those instruments.

Who would have thought 50 years ago of melding flamenco with rock (The Doors), or South American rhythms/instruments with pop (Paul Simon), African rhythms with the 4/4 beat of rock (Peter Gabriel). No, back in the day classical was classical, pop was pop, rock was rock, folk was folk, . . . you get the picture. Now, there are no boundaries. You can hear folk and Hawaiian mixed (Courtney Jaye), traditional Eastern European instruments mixed with bluegrass/folk (Erik Brandt), Egyptian/Middle East/South American rhythms and instruments mixed with drum n' bass/break beats/dub (Secret Archives of the Vatican), not to mention the various fusions of jazz/folk/rock/Latin/classical/etc. Anything you can think of is being done, though still with the basic stringed, wind or skinned instruments.

What really amazes me, though, is this melding of cultures, rhythms and genres is no longer the domain of the more mature musician. 20-year-olds are putting out work that only a decade or so ago was the domain of luminaries like Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and the like.

Aly Tadros is just such a point in case. Her music, lyrics and adventurous playing belie her 22 years. Aly was an exchange student who spent time in Spain, Turkey (where she discovered the underground scene of everything from Turkish rock, and hip-hop, to reggae), Egypt and South America, and studied middle eastern politics. Her influences are as varied as her travels. Aly says those who she admires and inspire her include Kina Grannis, Morphine, Tom Waits, Ani DiFranco, and Fiona Apple with other singer-songwriters including Douglas Jay Boyd, Robin Smith, Kalu James and Alyse Black.

What Tadros brings to the table is her unique, finger-picking guitar playing style. She adds thoughtful lyrics and her smoky, soulful voice to the '60s-influenced Folk to create her own sound. Her style and voice has been described as "Two part Fiona Apple (vocal), one part Ani Difranco (guitar), with a dash of Tom Waits," with "a bit of Buffy Saint-Marie . . . the more soulful side of Janis Ian, Dusty Springfield, and so on mixed with shades of the best pro backing vocalists: Lesley Duncan, Kiki Dee, and the like." So many people in one! I hope she doesn't get confused. I love her voice. In fact I think it is the best instrument on the album, and I am going to add to the list with a comparison of my own--Natalie Merchant (especially from Motherland) with a dash of Karen Bergquist. I hope Tadros doesn't get lost in all that?!

Tadros sings her own well-written tunes to her unique take on folk. In her music you will hear the sounds of Spain and the Middle East mixed with folk, plus touches of blues and jazz, all mixed with that voice. And it is the way she constructs her music that makes her sound different. Tadros describes her music as "dirty gypsy jazz." It is a mixture of everything above combining with Aly's unique finger-picking style on her classical guitar. It is all put together perfectly by the genius of understatement, Duane Lundy, at his Shangri-La studios.

Some have said that her take on the folk theme is not that original. But you could say that about any designer of cars: they are still making cars the way they always have, four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, just adding in their own ideas/technology. But in the end what we have ended up with is vastly removed from where we started. Tadros has added her own ideas and creativity to her folk style, making her distinctive enough to others to warrant a closer listen, specifically considering this is her first release.
Rob Boynton


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