Primary URL: http://azaima.com/
Azaima Anderson is a woman of the world, and her music reflects her spirit of inquiry and devotional practice. From the time her mother taught her how to harmonize and distinguish classical composers from one another at age five, she has loved singing, writing, playing and performing. She has been a Kerrville New Folk Finalist. Her album, Horse Sense, won the Down East Country Music Associations of America’s Album of the Year, and her song, “Horse Sense” won the Country Music Associations of America’s song of the year. Her songs have won awards in three different genres.
Most recently, she has departed from her lyrical roots to compose an album of prosperity chants in the Sufi tradition called Heart Lightning. This critically acclaimed work has a hypnotic feel and can be appreciated as a spiritual practice or as relaxing background music. “Untamed” is the result. This is a CD chock full of activism combined with well-arranged tunes to back what is essentially a vehicle to spread a lot of messages that are not only important to Azaima, but to the world in general. And she makes this all work very well with everything from innuendos to flat out unrelenting cries for help, which is done in an effective manner with an often humorous vibe without losing the seriousness of it all. This isn’t easy to do, but she made it sound effortless. The disc opens with “Who Decides” which features an instant country flavored blues guitar lick that sets up the lyrical content about not being silenced, not relenting to who makes the decisions in a relationship. She does this without offending either side, and the guitar as mentioned, boils just under the chorus as the song fades away. You can tell right way that it’s a good recording too, as a precision sound is delivered. This tune has a lot of bold flavor and a playful enough lyric to keep it interesting. This is followed up by “Untamed Gila” which once again maintains a country flavored track to back a storyline, this one based in New Mexico. This features a string arrangement with unison violin and guitar soling, along with a guitar bite in general that makes it all it can be. If anything loses a point here it’s the vocals being flat in the mix, but it is an otherwise excellent number. It has the album title’s theme wrapped up in it, so it’s a focal point early on in the set. “Second Chance” is a ballad where her voice comes alive. This is a very melancholy cut telling what appears to be a dog’s story of being on the road looking for a new owner. I think it might seem like a silly subject to some but any dog owner would smile at the sound of this. You feel like she is the dog in question. I find this one to lyrically stand out well and above most of these tales. “I Love You Cause You’re Not Around” is another relationship song, and this one finds itself lying in the middle of the road, but the lyrics are easy to follow, that’s for sure, as they contain the usual differences between a man and a woman’s roles. This is where you know the music is strongly based in country circles, but there is plenty of folk styling as well and the vocals do have a pop edge to them. The folk stretches out a little on “Upside Down” which sounds right up the Carly Simon or even Joni Mitchell avenue. There is some complex guitar strumming that keeps away from the more country flavoring of the previous tracks, and the vocals are delivered with a much better balance on this, and it’s a lovely piece of music with flute to spice it up. Making better sense upside down it what it’s all about. More flute creeps in on “Happy All Alone” and although it’s briefly used it’s akin to Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. These lyrics are more in the spoken word style. “Dawning Over Swannanoa” is where the vocals blend the best thus far and her mature but soft voice really shows its potential. This one is also enhanced with some violin. It’s an interesting tune and serves to be my overall pick for a favorite if I had to choose one. What a nice little haunting track this is, a true breath of freshness that makes the whole record for me. Things go a little more narrative “Running Away” and features some lower registered horns for a dash of humor as she croons away on this one. Not much to say about the track besides how it changes the tempo and brings the mood into classy territory and shows the jazz singer side of her craft. On “Give It A Whurl” that jazzy vibe is carried out on the vocal side with some less desired lyrics this time but it’s still a catchy song and mentions corporations in the activism of it all. All of the playfulness catches up with the darker attitude here and makes the subject matter more lighthearted than it really is. This isn’t one of the best tracks but it is still well done and you’re hooked by now either way. “Swannanoa” takes the record out with a ballad that approaches things differently than the previous track with the mention of the same place. This brings some piano on the scene and continues to show the various musical directions to be found on offer here. One of the more pleasant vocals is featured here too and it really rounds out a good product.
It somehow belongs on the disc and you not only hear that but you feel it. There are some weak points on this release but they’re not enough to stand out to where they can really be nit-picked on, but the vocals tend to struggle between melody and their meaning for which gets the most space, but it’s a small complaint concerning an otherwise confident artist that wasn’t born just yesterday. It only loses one point in the rating, and that’s not bad at all, as I see a future being well cut out for Azaima with “Untamed.”