Kyler, A Flower Grows in Stone (Gypsy Rock Records, 2003)

Kyler England’s newest album is a thing of beauty. Her previous album and EP dealt with the death of her mother from cancer, and of trying to comprehend how and why this could happen. Her music, while well-written and performed with enormous heart, was very melancholy and could be depressing. But it seems that with A Flower Grows in Stone, she is finally coming to terms with that loss, and moving on, learning to live again. Part folk acousticness and part pop sensibility, the new album explores themes of love, fame, and sacrifice in the modern world, and it is by far the best thing she has done yet.

Kyler grew up in North Carolina, and actually graduated from N.C. State University with a B.S. in Chemistry, though throughout much of her life, the drive to create and sing was there. While in college, she released Cocooning, an acoustic self-produced EP which displayed her immense potential and her sultry soul-searing voice. After graduation, she decided to forgo her formal education and moved to Boston to study songwriting at the Berklee College of Music. While there, she was nominated for many music and songwriting awards, and several of her songs started getting airplay on college stations around the country. It was also in Boston where she met her frequent collaborator, producer Richard Oliver Furch, who brought his considerable skill to Kyler’s album If the World Would Just End in 2000 and her EP How Many Angels? in 2001. She has lived in New York City since 2001, though she tirelessly tours both coasts to promote her music. Her most recent honors include winning the 2002 North Carolina Songwriters Competition for her songs "Higher Ground" and "Dead End", both of which appear on the new album.

Kyler’s skill with writing songs, as well as singing them, has made quantum leaps with each new work that she creates, and A Flower Grows in Stone is her best effort to date. Not to say that there were noticeable flaws in her earlier albums, but her newest creation frankly blows them all out of the water. The album starts off with "Something So Beautiful", a meditation on getting over physical abuse, whose opening thirty seconds I find impossible to get out of my head for their sheer quintessence. Many of the songs on the album are conversations with a lover, asking him not to leave, or commenting on how much he completes her life, or simply wanting him to stay in bed while the snow piles up ten feet tall outside.

Kyler brings some of her chemical knowledge to "Radioactive", a clever pop song about a girl who cares about nothing but getting her song on the radio, and "Distill", a reflection on leaving someone though you still love them. She celebrates finding the one person in her life who makes her feel whole in "Big City Boy" and "The One". And perhaps her best written song, "Laika", mourns the life of the little Russian dog who was shot into space but never returned.

There are two parts to this album: the first part is filled with her more pop-oriented stuff, accompanied by her full band, and the second part harkens back to her acoustic roots with minimal production and unplugged guitar. These parts are separated by a thirty-five second "coffee break", where, if you listen closely, you can hear glasses and cups clinking together. It’s not until you’ve listened to the last note on the album that you realize how well she fits in both roles: pop singer and sultry folk songwriter. Get in on the ground floor and buy this album at the beginning of this incredibly talented musician’s career. You’ll be able to tell all your friends you listened to Kyler before she made it big.

[Jason Erik Lundberg]

Find out more about Kyler at her official Web site