A cohesive debut as a duo from two veteran musicians who prove their talent as a pair.
For Hilary Tipps and Steve Obermiller, the trajectory to their first album together was a long and unusual one: First, they fell in love, then they started their lives together, dealing with all the ups and downs and inbetweens, while still working on their respective careers, before they finally got around to writing the songs together that would become ‘Love (and Other Mysteries)’. Much as the duo travelled a journey through life before making this album, it takes us on our own journey, track-by-track, be that in metaphors or more simply and straight from their hearts to the listener.
“So come pick me up / Take me out / Need a sandwich and the Ferris wheel / After a few times around I can’t pretend that it’s all real,” Tipps sings sweetly with a hint of disillusion on the opener ‘Ferris Wheel’ – a breezy acoustic pop track that rolls along easily, complete with some pleasant harmonies from Obermiller. On ‘Rewind, Repeat’, Tipps comes off as desperate to break an ugly relationship cycle. “Get out of my head so I can rest, I heard what I said, ‘Yes, no, yes.’,” she complains with obvious frustration. “Rewind, repeat, this weight on my chest / I’m going crazy, I guess,” she ultimately accepts.
‘Heart’ is a pure and tender love song with some of the most beautiful lines of the album: “Sunrise mirror captures your sleepy eyes / Lie here with you where dreams are made and tears are cried / We can start time with a kiss / Meet the morning just like this.” The love is so great in fact that Tipps ultimately declares “I don’t want to be here any longer than you”, a sweet yet still a little macabre desire. On songs like ‘These Hands’ and ‘Jack’, Tipps sounds positively sultry, but that edge to her voice is most effective on ‘My Love’ when it pairs nicely with Obermiller’s tone as he takes his turn on lead vocals. “I’d crawl across the Mohave just to get to you on my hands and knees,” he declares with complete conviction before an electric guitar with a touch of the blues riffs away.
While Tipps does take lead on the majority of the songs, with Obermiller sometimes joining in later, on ‘Willow Tree’, Obermiller is lead vocalist throughout. “Mostly we all run on faith, hope or some unknown / Lay our heads upon a pillow: weary brain and bone / Wake up every morning to face another day / Trying to see colors in the gray,” he sings, his voice never hardened despite the tone of the words. ‘Mrs. Montgomery’ stands out from the rest of the tracks, feeling like it would fit very easily in a 1970s Laurel Canyon folk album as Obermiller again sings lead, his tone as easy and flowing as the acoustic guitar that accompanies – the subject of the song is a woman who it seems never really lived up to her potential, yet still tries her best to be good to those around her (“Still she smiles, even on the days that hurt / She is kind, even when it’s not returned / She is wise enough now to know how the world can change / You don’t have to be great, just be good every day”).
“I’ve got a man that I’ll love ‘til death,” Tipps informs us on ‘Thick As Thieves’. “If I’d have wagered I’d have met him I’d have lost that bet / We always had a reason and a way to leave / In spite of ourselves now we’re thick as thieves.” Being thick as thieves, it seems, is just what is needed when it comes to a couple making a debut album that feels worn-in in sentiment, but still fresh in spirit. Let’s hope this isn’t the last that we hear of Tipps and Obermiller as a duo because a life lived together certainly makes for some good songs.