I to You
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Tawny Ellis is a captivating singer-songwriter that has been a staple of the Los Angeles music scene for many years. Her deep southern roots are reflected in her music, which has always blended a blast of west coast freshness and soulful bayou depth. Ellis' pure, pitch-perfect voice is reminiscent of artists like Pasty Cline and Emmylou Harris. It can quiver and twang, soar to delicate heights, and swoop to a rich, guttural fullness. 'I To You' is Tawny's fourth album. Her last album "Evolve or Die" (released in 2008) was met with critical acclaim in America and throughout Europe. She has played on the same bills as Ben Harper, Beck, and Queens of the Stone Age, and opened up for Melissa Etheridge in the Spring of 2010. I To You (2011) The one thing not surprising about a new Tawny Ellis album is the reminder of just how much she can surprise us all over again. She can rock it; she can pull it right back down. Previous albums Shelter and Evolve or Die showed the range. In I To You she's back doing what she does best: yoking intimately haunting ballads of love's trials and life's glories to soaring melodies that somehow raise the hairs on the back of the neck. Her voice goes from husky to plaintive in an instant. It's a pure, pitch-perfect voice that can quiver and twang, soaring to delicate heights, swooping to a rich, guttural fullness: what holds it all together is always Ellis's heart-wrenching presence at the emotional center of the song. With her stark arrangements and sweeping melodies she speaks of love, loss, doubt, heartbreak, running away and whiskey. It's wistful, it's yearning, and then suddenly it's all 'I will not be f***ed with.' But it maintains an unflinching honesty, even when, as in the title track, that honest self-revelation is all about fragility, about turning points and teetering on the edge of the abyss. In Erase You we hear touches of the great Lucinda Williams in the way that the soaringly sweet harmonies harbor darker ironies within. From the floating orchestration of All My Life to the sweet optimism of Alive and Well to the more intricate complexities of the densely-layered I Don't Want To Fight, Ellis holds tight the reins - the album always feels coherent, as if we're privy, in listening to it, to the emotional geography of a very singular voice. Tonight I Drink Whiskey melds a plaintive tale of tough-girl strength and resolve, bar-room style, with a classic old-school country beat. And then One More Cup of Coffee is a terrific reimagining of a classic, as if Ellis had somehow vocalized what Scarlet Rivera did on violin in the original, her voice taking on those mournful intonations until she reveals the song, stripped back thus, in it's true form: that hymn to the imminent loss of the unattainable one. (Rivera, by the way, appears on this album.) In Dear Muse, the singer apologizes for delusions, distractions and procrastinations, as well as retractions, bad decisions and intoxications. On the strength of this album, though, it's hard to imagine that Ellis's muse feels badly done by. **************************************************** Luke Davies Famous Poet.