THE WOMEN'S MUSIC movement has been making moves to break out of its healthy but self-contained circuit and into the wider commercial music market. Unfortunately, a number of the artists apparently see guitarist Ray Obiedo's bland pop-soul as the ticket. Obiedo, who has slickened records for Holly Near and Teresa Trull with his formulaic arrangements, tries to do the same to Linda Tillery's new album, "Secrets." Tillery, though, has such a sure, strong voice that she cuts through the cotton candy again and again with her jazz phrasing and gospel power.
Obiedo and Trull co-wrote four of the album's eight songs, and Obiedo produced five of them. Typical is "Special Kind of Love," a standard-issue, mid-tempo love song that's totally unremarkable except for Tillery's gritty lead vocal that builds to a passion that's nowhere in the lyrics.
Not surprisingly, the album's two best songs were produced by Tillery herself with the sympathetic Mary Watkins on acoustic piano. Tillery's own "I'm Thankful" boasts a simple but gutsy gospel-soul arrangement to match the vocal, while the old R&B standard "Fever" is rearranged with a witty lesbian verse and a sultry jazz approach.
LINDA TILLERY -- "Secrets" (411/Redwood BLF 736); appearing Sunday at Kilimanjaro's.