One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the diversity and richness of the local music scene. We’ve got stalwarts and longtime players of a caliber and quality that makes finding a gig on any given night pretty much a certainty. From the local bar to the listening comfort of the Freight & Salvage to the vibe and history of the Great American Music Hall, someone you listen too regularly and want to hear is going to be there, making the joyful noise.
Maurice Tani, as native as native gets, is one of my favourite local players. Besides a wonderful singing voice and a great touch on a guitar neck, he’s a rarity: a genuine songwriter. In the years I’ve been listening to him, I’ve yet to hear a weak song. A great lyricist is great because he or she is a storyteller. That, over and above everything else, is at the heart of the craft.
His latest release, The Lovers Card, does not disappoint. The ten songs on offer are each and every one a story. Tani’s got one of the best voices out there and, like most canny songwriters, he crafts lyrics and stories that are perfectly suited for his voice to tell. There are killer one-liners (“you flirted with disaster until it finally fell for you”). There’s heartache and poignancy (“take me away, I’ve never been, we’ll soak into each other’s pores and under our skin”). There’s regret and acceptance (“out with the old, in with the new”). Tani’s not afraid to go where the story wants to take him.
The Lovers Card has a nice supporting cast. Kid Andersen adds some extra touch to Tani’s own guitar work. Aireene Espiritu’s vocals add layering and texture to “Three Small Words”. Aki Kumar blows a monster chunky harmonica on “Something To Hide”. And the Doobie Brothers’ John McFee offers up a wailing violin on “It Finally Fell For You” and pedal steel on “Falling”.
It’s a beautifully produced and engineered CD, full but never busy. Credit co-producer Jim Pugh for that; after thirty five years working with talent like Robert Cray, B.B King and Etta James, he knows his stuff.
Everything here just works. Give this one a listen and wait for it to pull you back in for a second or third listen. Trust me, it will.