Ann Doyle's CD Ready to Move is not a farewell. A longtime mainstay of the local music scene, Doyle is not leaving Ann Arbor, nor is she seeking greener pastures elsewhere. No, on the new CD, Doyle is singing about another kind of journey, a voyage on which she's matured and grown in understanding — in both senses of the word — of herself, of people, and relationships.
Ready to Move showcases the qualities that have long earned Doyle the affection of loyal fans and the respect of fellow musicians; finely crafted songs, inventive guitar playing, and an agile, highly expressive voice. The expert touch of her arranger and pianist, Doug Howell, is evident throughout. Featuring Danny Cox on drums, John Dunn on bass, and Robert Tye on guitar, the quartet's support is so right that you notice them only when you should. They will back Doyle at her CD release concert at the Ark on Saturday, February 7. In addition to the impeccable musicianship, expect a hearty dose of Doyle's trademark humor and genuine spontaneity in interacting with her audiences.
The new album takes off with "Northwest Flight 332" — "I've come to know / no matter how far I roam / I love my home" — and the second song, the title track, introduces the tension that pervades the entire album: "I don't know how I wound up / with an empty nest / in midlife, in limbo / in love again."
Doyle's songs always spring from the personal, even when she writes, as she did on her first album, of Tiananmen Square or homophobia, but they are never public self-therapy. Molding the material of her life, her songs are mirrors that reflect familiar yet surprising images of our common humanity.
The CD has a deeply satisfying trajectory. The first few tracks rise to the lyrical, exuberant love song "Lucky One." Then "Sheila" descends into the inevitable difficulties of relationships, delivering an angry plea to an intruding third party. The album hits its emotional nadir with two songs about the pain of faltering relationships — "Let's Not Do This" and "Only You Would Know" — before turning again toward hope. But now it is a mature, unsentimental hope. On "Bruised Peach" the singer has gained a hard-earned willingness to wait, and a profound understanding of someone else's pain. On "Still Ticking," Doyle wryly celebrates her own resilience: "And even if I'm not / the one you end up picking / At least I know my heart's / still ticking."
The album closes with "I Feel Grateful," featuring just piano and Doyle's voice, and an almost hymnlike melody: "I've got my music / to get me through / dark times / and I feel grateful / I do."
We, too, can be grateful for Doyle's music, to get us through both dark and good times.