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September 1st, 2004 Jenny Tatone | Music Stories
 

TARA JANE RISING

Portland's talented transplant turns her turmoil into a powerful new album.

     
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Tara Jane O'Neil
IMAGE: JASON QUIGLEY
In astrological speak, Sade-sati is said to dramatically change a person's life three times. Brought on by Saturn's transit over three astrological houses, Sade-sati hits you around your 30s, 60s and 90s. Many fear its impact, but the truly intuitive--like singer-songwriter Tara Jane O'Neil--understand change is good.

The 31-year-old Portland transplant recently faced the wrath of Sade-sati when she up and left a seven-year-long relationship and kissed the Big Apple goodbye. It was this life-altering decision and the difficult 3,000-mile trip that followed that inspired many of the heartbreak moments on her latest full-length offering, You Sound, Reflect. The aptly titled record--a folky collection of various delicate sounds that are at once sad and complex--proves the aftermath of a storm can be an earful of pleasure.

Walking into North Mississippi Avenue's Fresh Pot on a recent Sunday afternoon, O'Neil had a huge presence despite her petite stature. Wearing oversized black shades and a grin on her face, she had her hands tucked deep into the pockets of her black shorts as she glanced about the room and then left suddenly. A few minutes later she was out on the pavement, cigarette dangling from her lips, holding a white piece of paper with my name on it, flashing it around like a limo driver at an airport gate: a perfect introduction to a quirky and genuine artist.

Speaking slowly and quietly, O'Neil doesn't give too much away. She brushes over subjects lackadaisically, like everything's groovy. And now that she's post-Sade-sati, it seems everything is. "I'm here," she says with a satisfied smile as if she's been waiting for this her whole life. "It's been a long process getting here."

As a child and young adult, O'Neil bounced around quite a bit but called Louisville, Ky., home for 10 years. She first began penning bedroom tunes out of angst, later participating heavily in the local indie-rock scene, playing in Rodan and forming the bands Retsin and, upon relocating to New York, the Sonora Pine. She began releasing records as a solo artist in 2000; the gorgeously textured and emotive You Sound, Reflect is her fifth. Waxing philosophical on love, loss, life and growth, the brooding album warms the room with smoky vocals, intricate instrumental arrangements and a sensual rhythm section.

"It's a personal record," O'Neil concedes. "The last few years have been hectic. I broke up with a lover and fell in love with another person who I am now married to. It wasn't me trying to figure out where to go; it was me trying to find my way through a maze." And--with a little help from Saturn--finding her way home to Portland.


Tara Jane O'Neil plays with Mirah, Sarah Dougher and Daphna Kohn Friday, Sept. 3, a benefit for the No on Constitutional Amendment 36 campaign at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 8 pm. $5-$10 sliding scale. 21+.
 
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