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  • Kate Harvie
    March 27, 2021
    If the personal is political, which has been said for at least 30 years, the personal can certainly be musical. The latter isn't always the case, as plenty of pop and indie musicians demonstrate (all respect to them). And when it is so - when the personal and musical pair in ways that cause you to feel the sounds and tones and lyrics as much as, if not more than, you hear them - we must celebrate. And recognize. Taali, no stranger to the aforementioned personal-musical/musical-personal, recently released an album - "When Did The World Start Ending? [Live at Levon Helm Studios] - she made during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic-plus. As much as hearing it last year might have bolstered and warmed us, to hear songs like the title track, "Climb", and "What Are You Afraid Of?" today, when "covid fatigue" competes with appropriate caution for our energy and attention makes sense. It makes sense because when Taali sings "You were the one who told me we could get through this day," she may as well be saying it to us directly, individually, and factually. For every perceived pause and tremble in her presentation, there is fire. She is always - somehow, regardless of the song's intensity and her mastery of the piano keys - balanced in her performance. An example here is her take on "That Song About the Midway," known, loved, and celebrated by fans and followers of Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt for decades. Somehow, Taali makes the song hers, not only with the minor keys and seemingly enhanced appoggiaturas, and with a somehow stepped back approach to an emotional song about times passed without being distant or academic. Still, she welcomes us to see what happened and who was present at the Midway. And, we want to be there. A few of these songs appear on prior albums. If you own those records, or have heard "Wayward Star", "Los Angeles", and "Champagne and Fires", you will recognize certainly recognize them. And you won't immediately recollect a song they know. While professional musicians (read: the truly legit ones) are skilled at playing their material zillions of times without losing character and what made the song special, signature, or a hit, on this album, somehow, Taali takes these to the edge of absolutely new. Whether performing in the legendary Levon Helm Studio during the worst global pandemic in more than a century tinged these songs, or it was those and Taali's desire, strength, and prosperity-during-the-covid (the latter being my perception) is anyone's guess. Blessedly, we don't have to know to identify "When Did The World Start Ending?" as a crucially important and wildly enjoyable album.