The Taproots is a California-based musical project that combines the finest elements of rock, jazz, and Americana. Its fascinating sonic landscape and enthralling storytelling captivate listeners and miraculously touch their souls. The full album, “Tales of Wonderland,” is the gate to this ravishing world and all the wonders it holds.
The Taproots consist of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tom Walters and award-winning vocalist Nicole Cassingham. They worked with a stellar group of musicians to create their polished debut album, including bassist Mick Mahan (Pat Benatar), guitarist Jon Woodhead (Leon Russell), keyboard pros Craig Dobbin and Jeff Alan Ross (Badfinger/Peter Asher), bassist Steve Nelson (Michael McDonald), guitarist Clif Magness (Kelly Clarkson), drummer Michael C. Mason, and others. The album was recorded at Momboe Studios in Woodland Hills by Michael C. Mason and engineer/mixer Ross Pallone (Prince, Michael McDonald).
The fittingly titled album “Tales of Wonderland” is, as its artwork portrays it, a one-of-a-kind journey, where the road is created by authentic stories and vocals that know when to be filled with sensetavity and when to be erupting with power, with the rock, blues, and Americana rhythms drawing the atmosphere for the pleasurable adventure.
The album opens with “California Life” and its vibrant, fast pace that will have you grooving to the bright rhythm. The duet vocals blend delightfully to pay homage to California’s charm. As all of the elements work together to create a perfect picture of the City of Angels, where the family roots have deepened. Moving on to “Big Fat Love,” which uses all of its elements to show how a new, true love can turn your world upside down. The vocals tell the story zealously as if it has just happened, while the instruments convey how all of your organs jump happily when you finally believe in love and taste its sweet flavor. The solo riffs provide rock earworm bliss that lasts a while.
Unlike the first two tracks, “Haarlem” has a mellow melody and vocal lines that deliver a dreamy vibe. With the acoustic guitar’s delicate chords and the vocal velvet harmonies, it feels like a perfect autumn night where the sky is filled with shiny stars and the heart is brimming with warm love. “Wild Like a River” gathers both vitality and delicacy. It has a swaying ukulele’s rays of felicity that flow with the full-of-life vocals, which ideally convey embracing life through the sincerity of their tone.
“Compass” is a melodic tune that features serene vocals and a soothing arrangement to deliver the feeling of a satisfied heart. The effective simplicity of the components, along with the poetic lyrics that stir one’s emotions, create such an atmospheric setting. “Ontario” has some infectious hooks and a gutsy vocal delivery. Through the straightforward layers of rock and the captivating instrumentation, it presents the story of a person who’s longing to get back home.
With “Belief,” the album has reached its midpoint. This song has some of the most inspiring lyrics on the album. It’s “from the heart to the heart” advice that tells you not to believe in everything you see, hear, or read. It may sound plain, but it’s needed these days. You’ll find yourself weaving along with the acoustic notes and the soulful vocals and gracefully taking in the message. “Better Man” is the song whose music, vocals, and lyrics combine to provoke a memory of the one you know who can’t raise the bar when picking men. I liked how Nicole Cassingham is the lead vocalist here, while Tom Walters provides the backing vocals. Having a sarcastic female performance in this particular song made it more genuine.
There are people who work hard in the shadows, even during difficult times, and thanks to them, life takes its normal course. Through its insightful vocal performance, subtle basslines, and introspective narration, “Invisible Friends” pays tribute to these fighters. The tenth track, “Where Are You Now?” is a heartfelt memory evoker where you look at the past and think, “The years fly like geese.” My heart surely fell for this one. Everything about it is peaceful, regardless of its melancholic theme. The tuneful acoustic melody and the sentimental vocals make one smile rather than grieve.
“Wolf in the Woodland,” with its bluesy notes, invites you to dance with your bare feet like it’s the anthem of some sort of ritual. Through its flawless textures, the single depicts a big flaw in a personality, which is being narcissistic. The vocals dig deep with a tender timbre to draw out the personality’s maneuvers. “Comfort Zone,” with its upbeat blend of brisk sonic, sends an important message through its conveying reality lyrics, like the lines, “Don’t be afraid that you’re all alone. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” You’ll probably find yourself repeating it several times to enjoy its musicality, stunning performance, and relatable lyrics.
“My Sunlight” is a romantic take with affectionate vocals and melody. It’s the type of song you’d like to play and dance slowly to with your partner, from the idyllic scene of a sunset to the dazzling scene of moonlight. The solo part is mesmerizing and puts one’s mind into an intimate state, even if there’s no one in mind. With a bang, “Fate of Fire” ends the record. The mix of country and rock will energize you. Passion shines through in the vocal performance, which appears destined to have a fiery sound to fit its title. It’s The Taproots’ way of saying, “Here’s something to remember us by,” or, more precisely, “never forget us and repeat the entire album to enjoy it all over again.”
If you enjoy rock, folk, blues, and everything else that can fit into the mix while also being fond of stories, you’ll undoubtably be immersed in “Tales of Wonderland’s” marvelous execution and all of its tiny, impressive details.