(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CD review - Emily Shirley, Tiny Truths (2010)

Sometimes, an EP is the perfect size. An artist accomplishes her goal in a small handful of songs and it's enough. There are no second rate songs thrown in to fill out the album: perfect artistic focus. Heck, some artists just release singles as they record them. On Tiny Truths, Emily Shirley has created her latest demo. It's a loose collection of songs designed to show her range and every song is strong. Consequently, it's a great listen, but it's frustrating because it's too short. I want to hear more of what Shirley has to offer beyond these five songs.

Like many female singer-songwriters, Shirley's strong voice is the focus. It's all too easy to look for signs of Tori Amos or Suzanne Vega - you could find traces here - but Emily Shirley is closer to Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde). Some of that is due to the material and well planned (and well executed) arrangements.

The high point is Taking the Sun. At one level, it's a breakup song, but there's a depth beyond the obvious interpretation. It starts out sparse and open. After this intro, it takes on a degree of strain and the music builds. Then it hits a chorus that sends shivers:
I'm taking the sun and you can't have it back
I'm taking the moon and I will paint it black
Her voice is calm and a little sad that it's come to this. There's a powerful psychic energy buried in this song that comes out as the guitars throw a little bit of distortion against the wistful sound of Shirley's voice. Taking the Sun is the song that evokes Concrete Blonde the strongest on Tiny Truths. Like the album, I wish the song lasted longer, just so I could wallow in it.

Later, Blueberry Song pulls off a Tom Waits sound, primarily with an arrangement that creates a carnival feel along with some interesting instrumentation. The mood here couldn't be more different from Taking the Sun, but it's also compelling and original. The solo version doesn't quite hit the same spot, but it's still good.

I'd love to see Emily Shirley break out of Austin and take on the world, if only so I can hear more of what she has to offer. Tiny Truths is available on Amazon, buy it here and help make that happen.

Now I'm longing for a Celis Grand Cru (from when Pierre was running things).

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