Portland, Oregon singer/songwriter Rachel Taylor Brown is acutely attuned to humankind’s frailties, faults and inner demons. When she sings, “You always hurt the one you love,” during piano-grounded rocker “Abraham and Isaac,” she isn’t expressing broken romance. The sentiment is based on the Bible story when Abraham attempts to sacrifice his son at God’s behest. Brown’s chamber-arena tunes – think Tori Amos fronting early Genesis – embody subject matter serious and disquieting. Brown’s classically trained voice proves a potent implement of reproach, especially during anti-war reflection “Another Dead Soldier in Fallujah,” written when Brown watched a family lose their son in Iraq on Christmas Day. Similar to Laura Nyro, Mia Doi Todd or Kate Bush, Brown layers ashen lyrical issues with astute arrangements, utilizing everything from ringing telephones to Bach-like trimmings.

Grade: A

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