There are many reasons why recording artists release cover albums. Recording an entire album of already well-known material can revive a stalled career. Or contractual obligations to a record company could force a quick release that produces a fresh product during a period of creative stagnation.
For former St. Albert singer-songwriter Robyn Taylor, now residing in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, her 2022 recording of iconic tunes was more than the desire to be hailed as an insightful interpreter.
Easy dollars are less important to Taylor than the connections she makes with fellow musicians and her listeners. Each song was recorded throughout the past decade and, “all are about people that mean something to me. It’s about having a guest artist, someone special to me, on every track,” said Taylor.
She is in town to formally release Crystal Ballroom Princess at A Boutique Gallery Bar by Gracie Jane on Thursday, Aug. 18. Digital sales on major platforms will be available Sept. 2.
The 10-track is her first release since 2015. Prior albums include Amethyst (1998), Upon a Christmas Eve (2001), Christmas at Convocation Hall (2003), Blues in the Night (2006), and VI IV with the Space Six Quartet.
Cleverly tucked throughout Crystal Ballroom Princess are salutes to major artists, such as Leonard Cohen, Don McLean, Sarah McLachlan, and Joni Mitchell, to name a few.
A magnetic singer, Taylor, who has a vocal purity reminiscent of Sarah Brightman, gravitates to songs that pull at the emotions, yet she manages to give each song a different sonic aesthetic.
The late, great Frances Schuchard, a brilliant pianist and founder of Visionary College, was the singer’s greatest mentor during her formative years. In Both Sides Now, Schuchard accompanies her protégé on piano, a slow, hushed interpretation packing deep emotion.
“I worked with her for 22 years. She was my teacher as a child. We performed together. We did shows, concerts, and performed at Yardbird Suite together. I recorded my first album with her. She shaped me as an artist. She helped me realize music is about emotion, and the most important thing is that you are genuine and connect authentically. That’s what this album is about. These people all mean something to me and have been an influence in my life.”
The singer-songwriter's trademark admiration also extends to Edmonton-based Andrew Glover, a highly recognizable pianist who accompanies her on three songs: Warren Zevon’s Don’t Let Us Get Sick, Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
“Andrew is a very talented jazz pianist. He has a dry sense of humour. Both Frances and Andrew have mathematical minds, and both deliver the artistry under the structure of music. And when you have a musician like Andrew, the mathematical rules become part of the artistry. It’s so intuitive for him, something I’ve always admired.”
In addition to connection, another theme that runs through every line is love.
“Love is the human experience we all share. The idea of finding love is universal. There’s a lot of love in these songs and that’s why they spoke to me. In my life in recent years, I’ve had a lot of loss. But I’ve also had a lot of love.”
Taylor will perform two solo sets at Gracie Jane’s running from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Gracie Jane’s is at 31 Perron St. No cover.