It takes a certain boldness to – in the space of just over a year – begin a new musical endeavor, and to populate the debut album with all original music. That’s what Szandra Szoke has done with this first outing, and the result is a solid set of very personal lyrics and music.

Interestingly, seven of the nine tracks are in English. “Writing in English comes more naturally in this period of my life,” Ms. Szoke writes, “…than writing in Hungarian. It also helps that I am a great fan of the language. Singing in English as a Hungarian allows me to be extremely personal and somewhat protective of my deepest self at the same time.”

The liner notes call it a “…delicate, daydreaming, curious kind of music,” and indeed – this material is much more than three verses and a bridge. Ms. Szoke’s intense alto is in command of her lyrics – whether challenging (“Wool“), or wistful (“Memory Palace“). Those are two of my favorites from this album. Another is “Whitewater,” a track that reminds me very much of the stereotypical sixties jazz/poetry performances.  Those three were added to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com.

And if it’s a bold outing, Ms. Szoke says she feels as if she has plenty of support. “…I feel like being on a playground, everyone around me is highly skilled and extremely creative, it feels like I can do anything, because I can be sure they are there to catch me if I fall.”

That backing group includes Gabor Cseke on piano, Istvan Fekete on trumpet, Peter Olah on bass, and Csaba Pusztai on drums. Does so intensely personal music defy commercial success?

Let’s hope not. I’ll look for more from Ms. Szoke and her group. This disc is recommended.

The full text is available here.