In 1997, following a short stint in a little-known group called Benjamin, Tiffany Arbuckle started an industrial-flavored rock group named Plumb which received great attention in the Christian music industry. The group underwent several member changes before releasing a second record in 1999, entitled candycoatedwaterdrops, showcasing a more pop/rock feel. In 2000, Plumb made the decision to leave her previous record label, and a greatest hits project, entitled The Best of Plumb was released to fulfill contract obligations. Plumb married later that year (becoming Tiffany Arbuckle Lee), and until 2002, searched for a new home label before coming to rest with Curb Records. Now, in 2003, minus the band and going solely by just Plumb, the much delayed and anticipated follow-up to candycoated... finally graces shelves. So has it been worth the wait?
Beautiful Lumps of Coal opens with "Free," a pop/rocker about old relationships that has Plumb crying out "I'm free / to be the girl you tried to steal from me." A song Plumb admits she wrote while relaxing in her bathtub, "Free" is Plumb's response to all of her old boyfriends, her previous management, and her previous record company and what all of them thought she was all about as a person and an artist. "Sink 'N Swim" is Plumb's take on unconditional love and the the idea of surviving tough times together, namely in her relationship with her husband Jeremy. "Without You" is a catchy pop tune inspired by an argument Plumb once had with Jeremy before they were married. According to Plumb, they had left each other without settling things, leaving her to realize how much he meant to her and the criticality of leaving on sour terms. "Boys Don't Cry" is a highlight on Beautiful Lumps..., a standout pop rock anthem inspired by a boy Plumb's husband had counseled who felt neglected by his parents and that they cared more about their reputation than their child and things he struggled through. The emotional track fits well among Plumb's signature relationship-focused tracks. "Hold Me" was originally written by Plumb for another artist but she wasn't comfortable with how the lyrics sounded before changing them to what appears here. A bass-laden intro gives way to a rock tune that has now come to be moreso about Plumb's wedding night than anything else, "Hold me til morning / Love me right now... / And I will never be the same again... / Tonight lasts forever..."
"Taken" is a delicate and catchy pop tune that Plumb offers as a tribute to one of Jeremy's ex-girlfriends who she credits to positive changes that were made in his character. "Nine months after [Jeremy and I] started dating," Plumb says in her official bio, "she drowned while swimming in a river. She was just 19 or 20 years old. ...Had he not met her before me, I probably wouldn't have looked twice at him, so I was thankful for her for being the influence she was. Not many people write songs about their husband's ex-girlfriends, but Jeremy and I still hold her safe inside. It's all in that song, which is not so much a 'goodbye' as 'see your later'..."
"Nice Naive and Beautiful" is a somber ballad for the abused in which she encourages listeners who can relate that they're not going through pain for no reason, but have the opportunity to take it and use it for their betterment. Here Plumb stretches her vocal abilities and at times slips into a few moments where Jewel would sure to be proud. "Unnoticed" is a rock track about the unselfish who are often overlooked while "Real" is a lament about our sex-driven society that is missing out on the true beauty of life. "Love 'Em & Kiss 'Em" is a home recording of mother speaking to a three-year-old Plumb in 1977 about marriage, making the perfect intro for the beautiful and delicate piano-driven "Go," a song about her parents having to let her go as she married Jeremy.
Beautiful Lumps of Coal is an excellent third installment in the musical chronicles of Tiffany Arbuckle Lee. Musically, it's a step in another direction for Arbuckle Lee, as she continues to mature as a songwriter and musician. Lyrically, Plumb continues to tackle sensitive topics that are easy to relate to that have been given a whole new spin since her marriage. Longtime fans have much rejoicing to do over Beautiful Lumps of Coal and new listeners who appreciate meaningful female-fronted pop/rock won't want to miss out on this release.- Review date: 3/22/03, written by John DiBiase
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