For Plumb, trying to stay on top of things has been a way of life. Since Tiffany Arbuckle, now Tiffany Lee [married, Oct 2000], and her band gelled together shortly after the recording of the first self titled album, and then hit the road in 1997 and 1998 with multiplatinum-selling labelmate Jars of Clay, all the while watching Plumb sales climb to over 100,000 units out there, life has been one wild ride. Now, with the release of a sophomore project on Essential Records, she and the band sound as though they've had a moment to catch their breath, stretch, think over things a bit and expand the signature aggressive sound.
Candycoatedwaterdrops has what Plumb fans have grown to expect; a taut, crisp, modern rock that beats with an uncommon strength of conviction and pointed artistry. But beneath all the clamor and energy, a broader, subtler, more human feel emerges in these songs, most of which are augmented with breaths of fresh air by such elements as real drums, real bass and real orchestra (The London Symphony, as a matter of fact). Plumb has made a subtle change.
Truthfully, it would've been perfectly logical for Tiffany to play it safe and make Plumb II, but to hear her explain it, Plumb's evolution has everything to do with becoming a true artist over intense periods on stages, in a van or on a bus.
"Most of the first album was literally a stab in the dark," she says, recounting the now-familiar story about how she barely knew her own name (Plumb) before she was signed and recorded an album that turned into the largest new artist debut of the year for the distribution company, Provident Music Group. "This time, it's more of who I really am," she says smiling. "This album is a reflection of the first year-and-a-half I've spent on the road as an artist, instead of my start as a backup singer. It's more mature, more timeless," she concludes.
While Tiffany feels her debut was most readily accessible to teens, she says Candycoatedwaterdrops possesses a broader appeal and showcases the emotions and day-to-day life of herself and those closest to her, while still figuring out who she is individually and collectively with a band.
This album is a product of growth, and she firmly believes artists who have the most longevity are always adapting while remaining true to themselves and where they are creatively.
Indeed, on this effort, recorded mostly in a studio-converted barn on Amy Grant's Nashville ranch under the watchful eye of returning producer, co-writing partner, and friend, Matt Bronleewe (Natalie Imbruglia) and new to Plumb, producer Glenn Rosenstein (U2, Talking Heads, Sarah Jahn, Caedmon's Call), Plumb does sound like she's traveling in the right direction. And besides the varied sounds and textures offered throughout the album, this time out the most satisfying element is Arbuckle's voice.
Tiffany came to the front on Candycoatedwaterdrops, often intoning words and stories like a more impassioned Suzanne Vega, with a nod towards influences stretching from Patty Griffin, Alanis Morissette and Garbage, to Sarah McLachlan or Sheryl Crow.
But despite stretching, growing and changing, one aspect of Plumb that remains rock solid and constant is Arbuckle's overriding mission to shed light upon dark places and especially subject matter many artists, and Christians especially, don't feel comfortable addressing.
"Damaged," a nearly whispered word-and-sound painting of a woman struggling with the aftermath of sexual abuse, is one example of the difficult territory where Plumb roams. But Arbuckle wouldn't have it any other way. "Physical and sexual abuse is such a far-reaching theme," she explains. "I've received so many letters from people who feel like they have baggage because of itÉand that no one is ever going to really love themÉthat they'll never marryÉor that they just feel so alone. It's my effort to share hope."
"Phobic" with its prominent yet restrained and familiar drum loop speaks directly to those about the true fear of God. "It's about how some can get extremely phobic about fearing God and about how so many people think the "fear of the Lord" means to be scared of Him," Arbuckle says, a hint of exasperation in her voice. "Christians, just like all people, are going to mess up, sure. And God is a God of consequences, just as He's a God of love. But He certainly doesn't run around with lightening bolts. Grace still isn't a license to do wrong. But the freedom to become who He has created us to be is an amazing journey to look forward to."
As Plumb isn't shy about controversy, it should come as no surprise that Candycoatedwaterdrops has at least one title that is sure to raise some eyebrows: "Drug-store jesus," note the lower case "J."