TaughtMe: Lady
Own Records

Lady's a bit of a mongrel album, something Blake Henderson (aka TaughtMe) himself acknowledges in the liner notes: “The pile of song and word that you are holding wanted to be released a long, long time ago. Since then it has aged and become grouchy. I exhale heartily and hand it over to you. My pockets are tired.” He's a singer-songwriter of eccentric vintage, a San Francisco-based troubadour whose stories concern yo-yos, socks, and pennies (“Gather”), childhood games (“Stomping of Boots”), insatiable desire (“Stranger Struggle”), and more. Guitar (acoustic and electric), electronics, drums, glockenspiel, percussion, and keyboards provide instrumental accompaniment, and Lady's spacious ambiance deepens its intimate “bedroom” feel. The album is musically most affecting in its gentlest moments, such as those that emerge during the languorous “Lady” and “Stranger Struggle.”

Trailed by a quivering vibrato, Henderson's fragile, sometimes straining voice is an acquired taste but the open-hearted vulnerability of the songs compensates (in “Stomping of Boots,” he sings, “We're watching the leaves fall from all of these trees and it's the same damned thing I wish would happen to me”); it would seem cold-hearted and mean-spirited, in other words, to reject material that's presented with such naked sincerity. The desperation expressed in “Heaviest,” on the other hand, turns out to be ideally suited to his vulnerable vocal style.

The album also exudes an innocent charm that's hard to resist. The lyrics, for example, aren't formally typed but hand-lettered on a folded sheet of lined paper like the kind you'd find in your high-school three-ring binder, and lyrically there's a sense of confessional, wide-eyed wonder as opposed to anything remotely resembling nihilism. When Henderson sings, “If I saw you cross my lawn with no coat or blanket / Humbly I'd invite you in despite your strangeness,” one can't help but think that the sentiment could just as meaningfully be directed towards him as to the one addressed in the song.

August 2008