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Paula Standing: The More I Give
by George Graham
(Independent Release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/13/2021)
Australia has a rather rich musical scene, though with some notable exceptions, not a great number artists from “down under” have found a lot commercial success in the US. The wide Pacific ocean may still have been a factor, but the Australian music scene has produced artists in a lot of genres. This week we have an appealing Aussie singer-songwriter with some country influence, along with the requisite degree of folk roots. Her name is Paula Standing, and her new release, her first full length album after a few EPs, is called The More I Give.
Born and raised in Queensland state in the north of Australia, Paula Standing was part of a musical family with her mother being described as a “beautiful singer” who would have frequent musical gatherings of family and friends. That inspired Paula to take up music, studying formally, performing when she could and teaching. She eventually moved south with her family to Adelaide, and in 2013 decided to try doing music full-time. There, she met artists on the Australian folk scene, including Lou Bradley, who would co-write some of the songs on The More I Give with Ms. Standing, and producer Rod McCormack, who produced the new album, recording it in November of 2019. At about the time she was going to take the music on the road in early 2020, the COVID pandemic hit, and the tour plans were canceled. So she worked on some videos, and released songs as singles from the album.
Now The More I Give is being made available in the US with a degree of promotion for it. It proves to be a delight. Ms Standing creates songs that are straightforward and heartfelt in their lyrics, while McCormack’s production is eminently tasteful, hinting at country but avoiding the cliches. There’s not a steel guitar to be heard. Ms. Standing’s vocals can be a bit reminiscent of the country folk of Iris DeMent, including her sincerity. The songs range from straight-out love songs, to compositions that could be considered autobiographical, about moving and setting down roots in a new place, and reminiscing about childhood and music around the house. Producer Rod McCormick plays several of instruments on the album, including various guitars, banjo and Dobro. Others appearing on the record include bassist Jeff McCormick, keyboardist Jeff Taylor and fiddle player Andy Leftwich.
The relatively short 37 minute, 10-song album opens with Call It Home, one of a couple of songs about home. It sounds as if it was inspired by her move from her childhood home to the a new house in a new location. The tasteful country folk musical setting gives the track added appeal. <<>>
Something of the opposite thought is the basis of Hiding Out in Tuscany a song about the urge for traveling and seeing the world. <<>>
My Heart Goes With You is about as direct a love song as you’ll find. But despite the familiar lyrical theme, the track is thoroughly appealing without being overly sweet. <<>>
The title song The More I Give is done as a piano ballad, a with its lyrics of introspection. <<>>
I’d Go Back Again is an upbeat composition of nostalgia, reminiscing about her days playing music in the family growing up. <<>>
One song that takes a different direction lyrically is Better Not to Know. She describes it as a murder ballad, but the lyrics are more ambiguous than most on the album. <<>>
Mother to Me is a tip of the hat to her mother, but also a kind of throwback to the role of women as non-career full-time mothers. <<>>
The album ends with a kind of classic country cry-in-your-beer song called Doing Fine, about downing one’s sorrows. But here, instead of a weeping steel guitar from Nashville, it’s done in an intimate solo acoustic guitar setting. <<>>
The More I Give by Australian singer-songwriter Paula Standing is a quite enjoyable collection of heartfelt songs served up in a very tasteful folk and country-influenced setting. Ms. Standing has an appealing vocal style with just a hint of country twang, while her lyrics are direct and generally unambiguous. Rod McCormack’s production is outstanding, with arrangements that nicely fill out the songs, but don’t get in the way, and avoid the country music cliches. The playing is classy all around.
In terms of sound quality, the album earns an “A.” The mix has warmth and clarity, there are no needless sonic gimmicks and the dynamic range is better than average.
Paula Standing is another excellent example of what the Australian music scene has to offer.
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