"Along for the Ride" free download via Elizabeth Maxwell Media
04/13/09 CD RELEASE SHOW @ THE CANAL ROOM! NY
04/20/09 The Bar Next Door @ La Lanterna NY
05/14/09 Rockwood Music Hall NY
Big Blue Moon plays like the soundtrack to a gentle romantic drama, one with minimal daylight scenes and lots of long, winding walks past ivy-covered Brownstones and quaint Mom & Pop cafés. It’s New York City, shot through the lenses of a poet, where the daily grime is tucked away in shadows and loneliness is as beautiful as a street-lit silhouette. I was reminded of the film My Blueberry Nights, which begins in New York but follows the main character as she moves across the country and eventually returns to the small Manhattan diner that initially drew her in. Jazz accompanies her journey, a fitting musical choice as the wayfaring heroine is played by Norah Jones. Similarly, Tolar channels Jones’s calm, light-but-not-lite sensibility, which explains why this style of music complements the visual narrative of film—its simple elegance is understated without seeming obtuse.
Tolar is a self-described “Southwestern girl living in Brooklyn,” a transplant from Colorado by way of California, raised on folk legends like Carole King and the downcast country blues of Johnny Cash. It’s fitting then that Moon addresses issues of displacement (a theme that Tolar cites in her bio); there’s an overwhelming connection with “home,” both geographically (“Colorado calls me home underneath a big blue moon,” from the title track) and as a symbol of romantic contentment (“Somethin’ in your words brings me home when I am lost,” “Somethin’”). Despite an obvious attention to heartbreak, Moon avoids gloomy cynicism, perhaps owing to the conceptual quality of the album as a whole: a kind of reflective “travel” diary, with each song documenting Tolar’s search for answers to The Big Questions in Life, like “why does love have to be so complicated?”
When Moon picks up in pace (on songs like “Along for the Ride”), Tolar proves that contemporary jazz can be sexy, in an unfussy, silk-and-red-wine sort of way, without sacrificing consistency. Often the inclusion of one or two up-tempo tracks has the adverse effect of disrupting the balance of these mostly-mellow records. But Moon opts for steady sophistication rather than stylized showiness, which speaks well of Tolar’s self-awareness as an artist and makes for a moving debut album.
Big Blue Moon can be purchased through Sarah Tolar’s official website at www.sarahtolar.com (via CD Baby; direct link: http://cdbaby.com/cd/sarahtolar). Tolar will be playing a CD release show at The Canal Room in New York City on April 13. For more information please visit her website or Myspace.