The Jennifer Tefft Band’s latest album Cutting For Stone makes the most of the band’s usual trademark qualities. Tefft’s plaintive, high strung, rangy voice, fierce, lean guitar lines, and a very tight, propulsive rhythm section are all here. This time, the Tefft and company take things to a higher level. There is a grandness of purpose going on in this album that makes one feel something special is going to happen with this band in 2017.
Tefft’s more driving rock numbers get intense enough to make one feel she might emerge from the stereo speakers to tell you off while her quieter numbers are so personally delivered one might feel she’s singing to you directly.
Opening cut “Rollercoaster” kicks off the album with an energetic drive and a slightly menacing vibe. Tefft’s aggressive vocal approach makes one feel the intensity of this song while her band mates bring it home with sonic style. Guitarist John Parrillo infuses it with a burning, searing guitar line while the rhythm section keeps it totally in motion, like a force of nature.
“Cooler Than You” has a knobby chug and a series of twists in the music that make it catchy as hell. Tefft sings it icy cool, with abrupt vocal assertions that shape the attitude as well as the groove. Her rhythm guitar fits into a snap action with bassist Jeff St. Pierre and drummer Phil Antoniades that makes her composition kick like a mule.
“Silence” is an angry, violent protest song. Tefft and the band show their fierceness as she sings about people who use silence as a weapon. Her attitude comes across through her fiery delivery and some violent action comes across within the band’s forceful musical expressions. There is an anticipatory swagger in the opening that is loaded with impending action, and this outfit makes good on it.
Tefft and company take it down easy and mellow on “Air,” a sparsely accompanied acoustic guitar number with traces of keyboard and strings. Tefft applies herself well to this emotive outing, which includes subtle sustains to heighten the feeling of aloneness. This one reaches the heart while pleasing the ear with its rangy voice and its floating melodic sensation.
“Let Me Be” is another easeful tune. Its melodic guitar underpinnings ring out with clarity, supported by nice kicks from the rhythm section. Tefft’s voice sails a smooth, direct course over the band with purposeful clarity. She makes the listener feel what her song is all about with her subtle shifts in her vocal line melody.
Heading back into driving uptempo material, “Follow Me Through” engages with Tefft’s sultry vocals and Parrillo’s fetching lead guitar strut. Its chorus suggests it could be this album’s hit song on local radio shows. Carolyn Rae fleshes out the vocals here and throughout this album, adding another layer to Tefft’s feminine grit.
“Too Late” is a song with true power. It swaggers in with a wide, sweeping, moody guitar phrase. From there, Tefft moves it around with shifts in lyrical attitude with subtle switches in her vocal approach. It slows down. It heats up. It grows into something big, anthem-like in grandness. A hauntingly catchy chorus makes one feel he’s being pulled into Tefft’s musical world by a tractor beam.
“Breathe” closes out the album with its quiet, seemingly simple chorus and breezy, drifting vocals and lofty, intricate touches on the instruments. Soft and powerful at once, Tefft makes this song grow wide, arcing, like something with larger than life purpose. The backdrop music conjured here is equally effective. Each little guitar note, bass note, drum hit, or keyboard sweep maintains subtle tones that impact the listener emotionally and ring out with true beauty, artfulness, and something that feels like it should be playing on large stages and on national radio.
The Jennifer Tefft Band have outdone themselves with this Cutting For Stone album. It reflects the talent caliber and melodic thrust this group has always been known for. This time around the block they grow their sound larger, take it further, and come u[ with something that waves in the New England music scene breeze like a large flag.