Tanya Moberly: I Love New York Songwriters

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Tanya Moberly

I Love New York Songwriters

May 19, 2024

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Tanya Moberly is something of a force of nature. Inspired by all she heard at Mark Janis’s Salon, she took over and produced the event for 15 years. This live-at-Don’t-Tell-Mama two-CD set is based on shows she had performed in 2013 and 2021 and was recorded over two evenings in October 2023 (Part I) and two evenings in November 2023 (Part II). It features songs by a wide range of New York songwriters “whether they were born here or not.”

Moberly has a hot-mama voice. He music director/pianist Steven Ray Watkins’ arrangements suit her, but a few more tamped down choices would have been welcome. “I’d Be Candy” (AC Haley) is a Janis Joplin-type song, right up Moberly’s alley. It’s cool and bluesy with a churning low-toned wail. Eminently hip Ritt Henn has provided Moberly with his double-entendre selections. “Maintenance” (with a riding jazz piano, a with-it bass by Matt Scharfglass, a cheeky violin by Bradley Bosenbeck, and a crabby scat vocal) . The terrific “Range Rover” declares: “Bought you a car/Built to last/A symbol of my love/Should anyone ask/A sturdy steed/Rugged and strong/It’ll keep you safe/As you roll along/Through the mud, through the mud, through the mud/Called love.” On these songs Moberly has a good time and mantains the right eyebrow-raised attitude.

The wonderful “Lies of Handsome Men” (Francesca Blumenthal), already a classic, arrives a bit gruff, which adds another dimension to it. Every woman can relate to this one. It’s as if Moberly is sitting on a curb, sad and frustrated but ultimately ready to try again. The excellent arrangement featuring violin supports Moberly’s phrasing. Following suit, “Hold My Hand” (Jeff Blumenthal) emerges with eyebrows in a point/furrowed brow; it’s a plea.

“I Still Feel the Same” (Renee Rosnes/David Hadju) is unusually literate. Again Moberly’s raspy voice adds a different perspective to the material. “Mama Was a Working Girl” (Larry Kerchner) is a tart, twangy two-step: “I never really knew ‘wha-ha-eye’” (why) Moberly sings with down-home spirit. “Crazy in This House” (Darnell White) is performed as if the ‘character’ is juuuust keeping things in check. Her anxiety churns.

“Mistress Waltz” (Meg Flather): “We don’t make plans/We don’t hold hands/When you go to her, will you forget/My silhouette, my skin” is delivered as perturbation on the way to torment, but Moberly keeps it credible. “Mess Outa Love” (Lina Koutrakos), another Joplin-ish number, rolls as a slow, hippy amble; you can picture the singer’s eyelids lowered. The cry-reflected by the violin is jaded. “Alive” (Greg Taylor) hitches on the wind with long-lined phrasing.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.