Tuesday, March 25, 2008

(I'll Be
There) by
Your Side

Priscilla Ahn, A Good Day, Blue Note/EMI [6/10/08]

Are you sleeping, can you hear me
Do you know if I am by your side
Does it matter if you hear me
When the morning comes I'll be there by your side.

-- Harry Nilsson, "Are You Sleeping" (1971)

The presence of Bernville, PA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter Priscilla Ahn on Blue Note makes perfect sense. While she isn't cut from the same cloth as label superstar Norah Jones—jazz plays no obvious role in her repertoire—she works, to keep the seamstress analogy going, with comparable fabric (like, say, the botanical prints of Britain's Liberty mills).

A Good Day may be a sin-
gular affair, but it has more
of a paisley-pop vibe than
that of your average solo performer. "Masters of Chi-
na," for instance, recalls
Harry Nilsson's "Are You Sleeping" (from The Point), while "Astronaut" exudes a similar Beatles-meet-Nilsson spirit with carnival-esque ambiance and multi-tracked "ah's." (The credits cite Ursula Knudson on mus-
ical saw and the Bird and the Bee's Greg Kurstin on keyboards.)

This isn't to suggest that A Good Day comes on like a full band effort, but rather that Ahn isn't simply setting confessional words to acoustic melodies (not that there's any shame in that game).
On a few tracks, like "A Dream" and "Red Cape," however, she slides down the slippery slope into adult contemporary territory. That's always a danger with this kind of music—the lines between mellow and easy listening become blurry (the fault lies with unadventur-
ous melodies and fuller production rather than prosaic lyrics).

At this point, it's worth
noting that Ahn has tour-
ed with Joshua Radin, Sara Bareilles, and Jones assoc-
iate Jesse Harris, who ply a more commercial version
of a similar folk-pop sound.

Produced by Joey Waronker, who captures every nuance of her liquid soprano, A Good Day introduces an appealing talent, but Ahn is at her best
when she sounds most like herself. Some degree of overlap
with associates is to be expected, but on songs like the inti-
mate "Wallflower," she makes the most vivid impression ("No
one sees me / please excuse me"). Of course, she may be speak-
ing as a fictional character rather than from direct experience,
but role-playing sometimes yields the most true-to-life results.

The more predictable selections may garner greater attention
and/or radio play, but they make less of an emotional impact.
The more Ahn reveals, the more compelling her work becomes.

Click here to sample tracks from A Good Day.

Endnote: For more information about Priscilla Ahn,
please click here. Images from Issho and Ahn's MySpace
Page (photographers: Henry Diltz and John D. Fox III).
Oh, and everyone should own a copy of The Point.

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