"Life of the Music" is Lauren Hooker’s second CD coming three years after her debut effort. The CD gives an expansive sampling of Ms. Hooker’s styles and skills as vocalist, composer and pianist. The CD features many of her own compositions executed by a talented list of musicians including John Hart on guitars, and a guest appearance of Mike Richmond on cello and acoustic bass, as well as many other players. Hooker’s vocal styling is unique and her lyrics lend themselves to that style. While the compositions themselves are diverse and make for a well-rounded listen, the lyrics are sometimes very personal and create a sense of disconnect between tracks. Some of the track choices could have been left off and other equally emotional and sensitive pieces used instead to give the CD a more unified theme around the personal experience.
That being said, there are some very special pieces on this CD, mostly Hooker’s original compositions that have some real depth to them as they are expressed by her own vocals. A few notable tracks include If That’s What You Feel, I Am Doing Very Well, and I Lied. These songs show the wide range of musical styles in which Hooker is comfortable. They lend themselves to her vocal phrasing and they are very personal expressions. These would be keys to the success of this CD, had she stuck to that theme. With that approach she would have rendered a very personal CD with great tunes and solid pop jazz appeal.
My impression of the covers on this CD is that they are credible executions, but Love Me or Leave Me was the only notable track in this category. It fit the underlyng theme and was delivered strongly. Hooker’s strength is in her sophisticated bluesy styling and that lends itself to her relationship-themed tunes whether her originals or covers. She can vamp a tune, and shape and style a tune across the entire emotional palette. That is an enjoyable characteristic of her work. I would love to see her put together one of those rainy afternoon CDs of broken-heart themed ballads and blues that her voice is ideally suited to. Until then "Life of the Music" is a solid second effort by Lauren Hooker and she is a talent that offers lots for the future.