You may have caught Toby Lightman this past year as an opening act for Howie Day, Gavin DeGraw, Marc Broussard, or Prince. If you did you were treated to her unique style of songwriting. It's a pleasant mix of funk and blues with a strong focus on the basic elements of powerful songs, highlighted with her naturally striking vocals. This past July she released Bird on a Wire, her second album, which is funky blues pop songs distributed with a dynamic and accomplished voice.
The album opens with one of the standout tracks, “Don’t Wake Me,” a funky, toe-tapping tune, which begins with a beautifully arranged a cappella chorus before it gives way to orchestration that is just as stunning. An inquisitive love song, it states the familiar request, “If I’m dreaming… don’t wake me,” but the song is far from formula or common. Aside from being a powerful way to open the album, it sets the tone and is an excellent display of Lightman’s vocal talents.
“Better,” referred to as a lullaby, slows things down. It’s moody, bluesy, and like the other songs, powerfully rooted lyrically in relationships and love – the unconditional love of a parent and a child. The arrangement is as expansive as the duration of the relationship the song spans, and just as potent.
With its whimsical sampling of the childhood game, “Round and Round” is a sultry and flirty funky flavored pop song that somehow melds a childhood innocent feel with the adult intentions of the lyrics. Lightman displays excellent vocal control, as her mournful pleas don’t give way to whining. It maintains the sexy and enticing tone without losing sight of playfulness. The backbeat gives it the feel of a big cat stalking its prey and only enhances the mood of the song.
The first single from Bird on a Wire was “Holding Me Down,” and it's an up-tempo song blending heavy lyrics with light whimsical music. An ultimatum to a romantic partner, the song is delivered with the same confident and self-assured attitude that is commonplace in her songwriting style.
Bird on a Wire expresses moods and emotions by way of delightfully orchestrated songs delivered with a voice that can be playful one moment and seductive the next. A highly talented songwriter, I’m sure this album is the foundation to a long and illustrious career for Toby Lightman.