Pop-folk vocalist Tai Shan puts her best foot forward on her latest release, Meet in the Middle. Twining reflective lyrics with smooth bluegrass-laden acoustics, roots rock embellishments, and blues style raptures, her original creations make for an aesthetically pleasing recording that aurally elevates the listener’s spirit. The addition of strings intermittently in the backdrop enhances the ethereal feel of the tunes.
The swirling acoustics of the strings ruminating freely along “Mary’s Song” contour Shan’s vocals in silky textures. The lyrics, penned by Shan, are inspired by Mary Roach’s book, Bonk. A recurring feature throughout the CD, Shan finds inspiration for her words from a variety of characters entrenched in works of literature that she finds fascinating.
Pursuing a laid-back ambience, the springy rhythm of the percussion trundling along “Love Is Changing Us” gives the track a rustic lure. Shan confesses, “This love is changing us / Life is not what it was / We are playing hide and seek … but you fall asleep next to me.” Flexing her prowess as a songwriter, the recording shifts to the slow burning acoustics of the guitar strings meandering along “Oldest Lullaby,” supporting Shan’s operatic vocalese. Once again, Shan looks to literature to draw her lyrics from and finds inspiration in Neil Gaiman’s novel Sandman. Intuitively, the phantom silhouettes of a horn’s wail moans lazily alongside her vocals.
Moving forward, the recording indulges in pop-folk trimmings through “Before the Dawn” and “Stubborn Girls.” The conviction in Shan’s vocals transforms these tracks into anthems, a rally cry to remain strong in the face of opposition. “Standing Outside the Fire” also projects a pop-folk flare likened to vintage Michael McDonald.
The bluesy crests of “Who Got Columbus High” are pumped up by a country-folk sway, changing to the smooth acoustic strokes of the guitar along “All I See Is You.” The twinkling chimes encircling “Out of the Frying Pan” inject a frolicking tempo into the melody. Stretching her wings, Shan dabbles in nostalgic blues through “At Last,” showing a soothing resonance emblematic of LeAnn Rimes.
A native of Seattle, Shan asserts her individuality as a singer, songwriter, and composer. Her songs are inspired by works of literature, covering narratives found in tomes from Stephen King to Dr. Seuss. She immerses her audience in each story, writing from the perspective of characters that the authors overlook.
Trained in classical and jazz composition, Shan believes music should serve the song and its story, even if that means genre-hopping from roots rock to country, from pop-folk to bluesgrass. She writes her songs on guitar and piano, then invites her collaborators to build further on each track. The result is a well-honed and smoothly polished assortment of easy-listening melodies.
Tai Shan – lead vocals and guitar; Austin Garrison, Amanda Sue Winterhalter, and Katrina Kope – background vocals; Tim Carey, Marina Christopher, Chirs Aguayo, and Tarik Abouzied – bass; Josh Rawlings and Chris Blankenburg – keyboard; Tarik Abouzied, Mark Blasco and Chris Aguayo – drums; Mark Blasco – guitar; Andrew Joslyn – violin and viola; Natalie Mai Hall – cello