Maureen Toth: Shine
In her debut album, Shine, Maureen Toth displays her own brand of Americana, a mix of the upbeat and the sanguine, rollicking and reflective. Unfortunately, her songwriting reveals an overarching blandness in its lyricism, that can detract from her abilities as a vocalist.
Toth has gifts as a singer. Her voice is rich and vibrant and at times can be emotive. Perhaps the best and worst thing you could say about her voice is that it’s “pretty.” She is missing a distinguishing characteristic in her voice, such as Lucinda Williams’ growl or Gillian Welch’s drawl, that might separate her from the female singer/songwriter pack. Adding to this problem is that vocal performances on Shine lack ambition; at no point on this disc do you get the feeling that Toth is pushing herself to an emotional edge. She singsongs her way through verse after chorus with the same breezy carelessness.
Shine opens with a tale of reckless, young love entitled “Boy & Girl.” It is a simple story. Boy meets girl. Girl rejects boy. Girl realizes mistake. Girl wants boy back. Boy rejects girl. Now teenage love has been a staple of pop songs for decades, but “Boy & Girl” feels kitschy to the point of cliche. The second track on the album, “Let It Shine”, is a rollicking, toe tapping anthem of self actualization. The interplay between Toth’s vocals and the piano melody gives this track an almost bluesy feel.
All the instrumental performances on Shine were provided by producer Bernie Larsen, who seems to have taken a minimalist approach. Larsen creates some interesting melodies, mostly on piano and slide guitar. Unfortunately, the percussion on this disc sounds canned, and the rhythm guitar feels bland and uninteresting.
One of the more interesting songs on the album, “Lonely Shoes,” seems to stem from Toth’s and Larsen’s previous collaboration in the reggae band Cry On Cue. “Lonely Shoes” has a breezy dance hall feel, and Toth delivers her vocals more freely here than on any other track on the album. This is also perhaps the only song where the percussion and Larsen’s guitar are driving the song and not simply serving as a background.
Overall, I’d say Maureen Toth has potential, but Shine relies too heavily on repetitive motifs and truism as spirituality to recommend it as a must listen.
MP3: Maureen Toth “Let It Shine”
Maureen Toth: Shine