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Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Tamara Hey - Miserably Happy

Tamara Hey - Miserably Happy
2008, Miserably Happy Records

Tamara Hey is a product of New York City. All the humor, intelligence, sarcasm and soul searching that goes with being a New Yorker is reflected perfectly on her latest album, Miserably Happy. Her press materials site influences such as The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Suzanne Vega and Aimee Mann, and you can hear shades of each within her songwriting, but Tamara Hey would appear to have a musical progenitor in Christine Lavin. Hey is a bit edgier than Lavin perhaps, but carries that same sense of intelligent wit and mischief that infuses the best of Lavin's material. The subtle essence of wit is ever-presented on Hey's most recent album, Miserably Happy. No subject is devoid of opportunity in Hey's capable hands.

Miserably Happy opens with You Wear Me Out, a reflection on a boyfriend whose amorous intent is based more in his own insecurities than affection. The arrangement is peppy pop sweetness that encapsulates the quiet angst that runs through the song. Round Peg is contrasts the distaste or discomfort some people feel with regards to an acquaintance or friend with a real weight issue, and yet it contrasts this feeling against the feelings of inadequacy engendered by the struggle for the perfect body. The narrator ends up deciding the less than perfect body and fun life are more desirable than the pursuit of elusive perfection. Umbrella is a humorous song that residents of any large pedestrian metropolis will understand. It's cute and understatedly funny.

Somebody's Girl reflects an almost neurotic sense of hope or knowledge that the perfect person it out there somewhere. It's a sweet song with a great pop arrangement. Isabelle incorporates subtly beautiful Spanish guitar licks into a song about how friends sometimes change once they get married or seriously involved. It's as much a lamentation of friendship lost as it is a passive or internal exhortation for the friend to see the truth about her choice. Drive is probably my favorite song on the record, nailing the angry urgency with which New Yorkers live every single day. Drive is about the need to get away from time to time to refresh yourself, and is delivered with a wink of wit. Other highlights include David #3, Long Dog Day and Miserably Happy. Tamara Hey closes out with October Sun, a musical painting of images and understandings drawn from the sun in decline. This is the prettiest and most poignant song on Miserably Happy.

Tamara Hey is quite the songwriter. Intelligent and funny lyrics back up against strong country/folk/rock arrangements that serve as perfect vehicles for Hey's sweet voice. Tamara Hey is just quirky enough to be instantly memorable/recognizable. Once you've heard her sing you'll always know Hey's voice right away. That is a quality most singers would die for. Add to that the obvious talent and you have quite a package. Miserably Happy is well-written and well-performed, and an indication that Tamara Hey should be a viable force in folk and rock for some time to come.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Tamara Hey at or, where you can purchase a copy of Miserably Happy. You can also pick up a copy at

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