[a] rummage through a songbook that includes many of the usual sepulchral suspects...
Sid Smith 2008
Having received plaudits for his lyrical lead work over the years (not to mention a gong presented to him by Her Majesty for services rendered in 2002) Martin Taylor's silky, accessible tones are often employed as consummate accompanist. Here the clean, clear lines of his formidable technique are harnessed behind the voice of daughter-in-law, Alison Burns, in a slow mooch through a set of late-night standards.
As befits the wee small hours evoked in the album's title, nothing here gets remotely noisome or likely to stop the next door neighbours from getting their beauty sleep. Taylor and Burns elegantly rummage through a songbook that includes many of the usual sepulchral suspects singled out by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee and Julie London. The intimacy of the production suits Burns' languorous vocals which seem to be aimed at blending in with a low-lit lounge rather than standing out from the crowd.
Because Of You, The Man That Got Away, Sophisticated Lady, He's A Tramp all have an agreeable well-worn, cosiness to them. Less appealing is If It's Magic, Stevie Wonder's cheesy ballad from Songs In The Key Life. On this makeover she opts for a slightly nasal delivery reminding one of those X-Factor hopefuls with the volume turned down and 'mellow' setting turned up to 11.
Perhaps the best in terms of performance is her own composition, True. Written about her brother who died a quarter of a century ago in the Falklands conflict, it's one of those bitter-sweet melodies that you'd swear has been around forever. Burns has said it took her a long time to write it and even longer before she could perform it. In a simple arrangement, Taylor's sure-handed picking graciously supports a heartfelt vocal.
Though Taylor's playing is highly accomplished throughout 1.A.M., it rarely cuts through the largely torpid atmosphere they've created for themselves. And with Burns' voice lacking a distinctive character with which she might stake her claim to some of those redoubtable standards, the overall result is something too smooth to be called truly memorable.