Americana singer finds a soulful new sound in Muscle Shoals
Tawny Ellis has always delivered her music with a soulful edge, but her latest EP, recorded at Muscle Shoals’ FAME studio, takes things up a notch. The title track’s studied tempo, full stops, lap steel and Hammond B3 push Ellis into a vocal space she hasn’t really visited before, with long, full-throated notes shot through with thought and emotion. You can tell the band – the Five Eight’s Sean Dunn and Patrick Ferguson, bassist Peter Hamilton, and Ellis’ regular collaborator Gio Loria – were feeling the space in which they were recording. Ellis sings “Evolve or Die” more fervently than the 2008 original, prodded by Ferguson’s drumming and Loria’s deep bass pedals. The set closes with a cover of “Walking After Midnight” whose understated vocal feels particularly distraught. It’s a nice finish to a project that’s brought out new dimensions of Ellis and Loria’s talents. [©2015 Hyperbolium]
The powerhouse smoky rasp of Tawny Ellis is one you won’t soon forget. On her four-track EP Ghosts of the Low Country, the Savannah, Georgia-bred Ellis was inspired by the documentary Muscle Shoals, which chronicled the notorious FAME Studios in Alabama, where she also recorded. Working with her husband and collaborator Gio Loria, as well as noted FAME producer Rick Hall, Ellis taps into the soulful spirit of this beloved place, capturing the magic of the area and all the incredible music that’s come out of it.
Ellis smoothly transitions between a full-bodied belting out delivery and a quieter, softer sound, playing to her strengths in all the right places and showing off her spectacular range. With two originals and two covers, it may not seem like there’s much to explore on Ghosts, but don’t judge too quickly in this case. Ellis brings a low sexiness to Patsy Cline’s classic “Walkin’ after Midnight,” taking it down from the epic country-western heights of Cline’s iconic performance and giving it a darker tint. It’s not the standout on Ghosts, but it is a worthy take and the steel guitar, played by Ellis herself, glows.
Where Ellis really shines is on the title track, a richly historic tour-de-force vocal performance and impressive feat of songwriting. The song tells the story of the “Singing River” in Tennessee, to where Native American Teh-La-Nay epically journeyed back, after being forced from her tribe to a reservation in Oklahoma as part of the Indian Removal Act. It’s a famous tale that’s given new life thanks to Ellis’ impassioned and spiritual song.
With the addition of Athens band Five Eight guitarist Sean Dunn and drummer Patrick Ferguson, Ellis takes on one of their originals “Desperate Tonight,” a subtly beautiful country song that exhibits her exceptional ability to control her voice and convey deep heartache as the tragic song suggests. As a side project for all involved, Ghosts is a little gem that should not fly under the radar.
Tawny Ellis has always delivered her music with a soulful edge, but her latest EP, recorded at Muscle Shoals’ FAME studio, takes things up a notch. The title track’s studied tempo, full stops, lap steel and Hammond B3 push Ellis into a vocal space she hasn’t really visited before, with long, full-throated notes shot through with thought and emotion. You can tell the band - the Five Eight’s Sean Dunn and Patrick Ferguson, bassist Peter Hamilton, and Ellis’ regular collaborator Gio Loria - were feeling the space in which they were recording. Ellis sings “Evolve or Die” more fervently than the 2008 original, prodded by Ferguson’s drumming and Loria’s deep bass pedals. The set closes with a cover of “Walking After Midnight” whose understated vocal feels particularly distraught. It’s a nice finish to a project that’s brought out new dimensions of Ellis and Loria’s talents.
There’s such a plaintive ache to Tawny Ellis’ delivery, it’s as though the ghosts of country music’s past have mutually agreed to reside in her voice.
A native of Georgia, Ellis is as pure of a singer as they come and she rolls through each of the numbers on her new EP Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions with authority and grace.
Flanked by her husband Gio Loria along with Sean Dunn and Patrick Ferguson–on loan from the Athens outfit Five Eight–Ellis and her band soar mightily through these four numbers, evincing the kind of rootsy precision that brings to mind everyone from Patty Griffin to Patsy Cline. The title track is a sheer five-minute swoon, while “Evolve Or Die” is a spirited shuffle that showcases Ellis’ skills on the lap steel.
The dobro-flecked “Desperate Tonight” is a soulful ballad that’s wrenching and exquisite, while the cover of “Walkin’ After Midnight” effortlessly summons the darkness of the night and the searchlight of broken heart.
From throaty to wistful, Ellis is in control of her voice and able to pull on her Southern roots at will. Guitar Magazine described her voice as “…the sort of voice one could make a meal of, in the vein of Neko Case or Ray LaMontagne — not to mention country singers from years, if not ages, past.” The record contains 2 original songs and 2 covers. The title track renders the story of Teh-La-Nay, a Native American of the Yuchi tribe forced from her home to a reservation in Oklahoma and her near decade travel back to her Tennessee River, the “Singing River” located in Muscle Shoals neighboring town of Florence. “Desperate Tonight” is a Five Eight original that brings the band’s own sound together with Ellis and Loria. Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” is an homage to the artist she is often compared to. “Evolve or Die” is an older track that was chosen by Ellis a song that deserved the particulars, rarities and royalties of a Fame studio recording.
Besides the songwriting and vocals, Ellis contributes lap steel guitar to the record. She picked it up 4 years ago after watching longtime neighbor and friend Daniel Lanois play. “Watching him has taught me a lot,” she said, “He is he best so I spy on his moves. I have a long way to go but I am dedicated to this blend of the lap steel and my voice together.” She talks about meeting him in 2008, “We talked about the CD I had just released and his belief that songwriters should write classic songs and not to worry about genre, to be a timeless artist. Since then he has subtly guided me with his philosophies and inspired me with his work ethic. His heartbeat is music and everyday his life is a testament to his commitment.” The multi-talented Gio Loria is also a musical inspiration to her. “He believes in me so much and he encourages me to write more and play more. We’ve been playing together since the day we met.”
Ellis’ talent doesn’t end with music. She’s an accomplished sculptor with an ancestral connection to one of the world’s most famous sculptors/painters, Edgar Degas. Working in bronze, wire and cement, she’s had gallery showings in Los Angeles, New Orleans and France and her work can be found all over the world. Lanois happens to also be a fan of her artwork and has recently commissioned a hand sculpted fret board.
“I was sculpting at a very young age,” she explains, “I feel like it is my natural state to be creating things otherwise I am no good.” She claims that being a sculptor has helped her to see music in textures. “I create to live and performing is my most natural state. I need that communication with people, it’s a language that makes me feel alive and excited to be here. It’s so mystical — the language of music and art. I can’t get over how it takes down boundaries we have as people trying to communicate with one another. It gives great understanding where there would be none. Music is the great healer.”
Four songs recorded during sessions in 2014 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama by noted artist and Southern musician Tawny Ellis reveals a powerful and distinctive voice who at times brings to mind roots-folk songwriters like Neko Case and Emmylou Harris.
You hear it write away on this Ghosts of the Low Country EP with the opening title track, where Ellis, a native of Savannah, Ga., plays lap steel (she learned watching neighbor Daniel Lanois play!), backed by members of the Athens, Ga.-based group Five Eight (guitarist Sean Dunn and drummer Patrick Ferguson), the same group behind the second track, “Evolve or Die.”
Also helping Ellis here are friend and guitarist/songwriter Gio Loria (who helped co-produced the EP) and bassist Peter Hamilton.
There is a subtle power to “Desperate Tonight” that allows the listener to really hear Ellis annunciate every word in the song. Gio Loria’s dobro work is outstanding.
Ellis and her top-notch studio group – surrounded by the deep n’ rootsy musical history of Muscle Shoals – close out this all-too-short record (only a little over 17 minutes in length) with a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
For more information and more on her back catalogue, go to www.tawnyellis.com.
Savannah, Georgia native, singer-songwriter Tawny Ellis through a chance meeting with producer and founder of Muscle Shoals' Fame Studios, Rick Hall she got to live out her dream, and record at Alabama's prestigious location. Story goes Ellis and her husband, and longtime collaborator Gio Loria after being inspired with the documentary 'Muscle Shoals' looked in while on tour, and by chance met RH and were invited back 10 days later to record on completion of the tour. In this time Ellis and Loria busied themselves both writing and working up other songs. Joined by Patrick Ferguson (drums) and Sean Dunn (electric guitar) from the Georgia band Five Eight they add to Ellis' lap steel, plus the latter's electric guitar, bass pedals, Hammond B-3 and Dobro (“Desperate Night”).
The 4-track EP has a wonderful, full-blown buoyancy to it. With time precious they only had limited hours to arrange the song, but with this comes an on the edge feel few acts could buy. Ellis' creative talent stretches outside music too. For she is a sculptor, working in bronze, wire and cement her work has been shown in art galleries in Los Angeles, New Orleans and France. On listening to the opening three tracks I felt a feel of dynamic adventure, and mystical too on title-track “Ghosts Of The Low Country”, this as she speaks of the hardship and wrong doing to Native American, Teh-La-Nay of the Yuchi tribe, and her near decade long journey from an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma back to the 'singing river' (Tennessee River). Her impassioned vocals coupled with Steel, B-3 and gull-bodied rhythm section turn an already powerful song into a killer.
A neighbour and friend of Daniel Lanois, Ellis follows the opening track with an equally impressive “Evolve Or Die”, and with the musician, producer in mind I feel the production and contains a quality you would attain to him. It is that good, solid and direct her music grabs hold of the attention of the listener instantly. My heart jumped a beat on hearing the strains of lap steel announce the opening to Patsy Cline favourite “Walkin' After Midnight”, and though her vocals don't challenge Cline or offer anything dramatically different it's a nice touch and it gave her another opportunity to demonstrate her elegant instrumental prowess. I can't wait to hear more from Ellis!
Tawny Ellis is an accomplished singer/songwriter with a voice of an angel and lyrics of a broken-hearted savoir. This may be 2015, but Ellis’ voice and music takes you as far back as the Carter Family but bleeds with the modern touches of Alison Krauss.
On her latest offering, the 4-track EP ‘Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ it is clear that Ellis is blessed with some serious pipes which could melt your heart or fill it with hope, depending on her mood. She is also a fantastic songwriter. Penning love-inducing ballads and haunting heartbreaks, Ellis sings like she has lived a long frutful life full of struggles and accomplishments. But truth be told, Ellis is young and wise beyond her years.
The Georgia-born singer opens this EP with the slow amble of “Ghosts Of The Low Country,” written by Ellis and her husband Gio Loria, who plays dobro on the track. Following is another Ellis original, “Evolve Or Die” which has a backwoods Civil War feel with its folk instrumentation. On this EP, Ellis is back by the Georgia band Five Eight, and covers their song “Desperate Tonight” written by Mike Mantione. It’s a slow waltz as the singer is trying to find herself in her own hometown. Then the CD ends with a gorgeous cover of the Patsy Cline classic “Walkin’ After Midnight.”
It’s been two years since Ellis has released her last album – 2013’s ‘Blow By Blow,’ and ‘Ghost of the Low Country’ might be a stop gap in between full lengths, but it is certainly full of beautiful music until the next long player comes.
A native of Savannah, GA and now living in Los Angeles, Tawny Ellis traveled back to the South to record her newest EP, Ghosts of the Low Country. Recorded at the renowned FAME Studios and produced by Rick Hall, The sounds on Ghosts of the Low Country are as soulful as the region and bring to life the aspects of music and song indicative not only of Tawny Ellis and Gio Loria, but of the very landscape of Muscle Shoals.
From throaty to wistful, Ellis is in control of her voice and able to pull on her Southern roots at will. Guitar Magazine described her voice as “…the sort of voice one could make a meal of, in the vein of Neko Case or Ray LaMontagne—not to mention country singers from years, if not ages, past.” Besides the songwriting and vocals, Ellis contributes lap steel guitar to the record. She picked it up 4 years ago after watching longtime neighbor and friend Daniel Lanois play. Accompanying Ellis is Gio Loria on guitar, guitar player Sean Dunn and drummer Patrick Ferguson from the Athens band, Five Eight, and Peter Hamilton on bass.
Ghosts of the Low Country is her 6th recording and 2nd EP. It contains 2 original songs and 2 covers, and will release on November 6th, 2015.
For more information: http://www.tawnyellis.com
submitted by KG Music Press
ISO RADIO -FRANCE
very very good music and this time it sounds exceptional...what a discovery to me...I am really enthusiastic...These four songs are pure beauty ...everything sound so perfect..the vocals, the sound, the musicians, the songs ...it also show that only four exceptionnal recordings on a EP can let a better feeling than 10 on a LP with 4 or 5 average on it, just to make the right number ...
Tawny made the right artistic , musical choices...she has got a high sense of good taste; she is a pure talent ...we really need artists like her
Merci from the deep of the heart for this musical gem...I will obviously air the 4 songs and will send you my playlist at the end of September
Tawny made my day with just 4 songs !!!
Ghosts Of The Low Country' is one of those 'pleasant accident' recordings. On tour and heading by the renowned Fame studios inspired by the Muscle Shoals documentary, Tawny Ellis and husband/collaborator Gio Loria, a chance meeting with Rick Hall led to an invitation to do some recording. A case of finish the tour, write the songs, pick up musicians on the way - very rock and roll in approach but very country in execution. Indeed, the word kismet has been justifiably bandied about.
The four songs have an intense yet downright easy country feel. Tawny herself is co-writer on two songs, the title track sticking safely with all the elements of with reedy Hammond organ and pedal steel to the fore and a relaxed and tranquil vibe - a song which she feels is even one of the best she's written despite the challenging nature of its conception. Of the two cover tracks, it's tempting to roll out the old chestnut of 'Desperate Tonight' being so laid back it's almost horizontal, while 'Walkin' After Midnight' tends towards a more bluesy feel with a slow shuffle nudging the song along.
For a project which was not quite thrown together but one which made the most of an opportunity not to be missed, there's a quality about the songs which speaks volumes for doing something on the spur of the moment, although being country… on the hoof seems more apt.
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
What goes on tour stays on tour; unless of course it’s worth sharing with everybody you know and is so important that the words won’t keep still, they merge into something that demands to be heard properly before the tour is over. Such is the genesis of the creative beginnings of Tawny Ellis’ Ghosts of the Low Country E.P., such is the mark of respect due to the four beautiful and soulful songs, that they each in their own way offer a piece of the American psyche and introspection that used to be synonymous with the road and the effects on the productive and artistic mind.
The four songs, two original and two inspired covers, sit within time happily and with the sense of pride associated with wanting to acknowledge a special bond with the area that you most associate with, but also one that keeps you grounded enough to understand why that bond is one that must never be broken. It is a peculiar sense of fortitude and strength that Time places within certain songs; it’s one that a greater sense of responsibility to bring the very best out of them and the genesis of being born out on the open road makes it even more important to cradle that accountability, that nurturing aspect, with care.
The two original songs, the E.P.s title track and Evolve or Die are tracks that dig deep into the ways of the American psyche, of the twin dilemma that takes root of the nation’s birth and the death of its former self. Perhaps only Australia can truly understand the duality of its nation, but even then it never suffered the magnitude of internal warfare to which the United States sprang from and it is in the dynamic that Ghosts of the Low Country presents itself, the seeing through the eyes of perhaps a former self and the view that comes before them.
In covering Five Eight’s great tune Desperate Tonight and Alan Block’s and Don Hecht’s Walkin’ After Midnight, a song recorded by the great Patsy Cline, the rounded nature of the E.P. is given respect and full value esteem, an esteem that comes through being at one with Tawny Ellis’ thoughts and soul.
Four great songs captured in such a way that you cannot help but love them, they are the open road and the cloudless sky that resounds of an America at peace with itself.
Ian D. Hall
TAWNY ELLIS/Ghosts of the Low Country: It’ll take you a minute to put your finger on it because happened so long ago but Ellis has the vibe and spirit of prime Lucinda Williams/Gurf Morlix collaborations running through this ep of southern gothic roots music. From originals to covers, Ellis puts her own stamp on the proceedings mingling the familiar with the new for a gumbo that really satisfies. As tasty as it can get in an ep format, this session recorded at Muscle Shoals really packs all the classic vibe from those walls into this date you can handle. Check it out, she’s a winner.
Tawny Ellis is a talented singer and songwriter who also works in the realm of sculpture, and makes jewelry as well. In addition, she is a lap steel player, as can be heard on her new EP, Ghosts Of The Low Country: The Muscle Shoals Sessions. This CD contains two original compositions and two covers, and features members of the Athens, Georgia band Five Eight (and actually, one of the two covers is a Five Eight tune). Tawny Ellis herself is from Georgia, but is now based in Los Angeles.
ALT COUNTRY E-ZINE BELGIUM
With the end of their most recent tour in the American South in sight gradually decided Tawny Ellis and her consort Gio Loria to pay a visit to the renowned Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. And there came one soon also the other. They were owner-producer Rick Hall himself indeed invited to do some come to take. And that immediately after barely ten days later expiring tour still! What made that there is not very much time was left to plan some things seriously. And so it was eventually but opted for a four-track EP.
Which was recorded by Ellis himself on lap steel, her guy Gio Loria various guitars, bass, dobro and Hammond B3, the Five Eight, a group from Athens, GA, borrowed tandem Sean Dunn and Patrick Ferguson respectively electric guitar and Peter Hamilton on drums and bass. For the production signed Ellis and her partner himself.
Aside Trapt is the truly stunning "Ghosts Of The Low Country". That title track, a wonderfully soulful, plaintive (alternative) country-noir slow reminded us turn to Lucinda Williams and Neko Case. So a real hit! Then there is "Evolve Or Die", an older Ellis number, brought for the occasion as beautiful acoustic Americana ballad. In turn, a little Emmylou-esk verily!
The other two songs are covers. The first, which loom sounding roots rocker "Desperate Tonight," a track from here previously mentioned band Five Eight, the second, "Walking After Midnight", a sort of homage to the address of a singer that Ellis in the past was often compared, in particular the large Patsy Cline.
Quite a pity, really, that she is well and good after seventeen minutes all over again. Here we indeed had quite still looped some more of ...
If you’re looking for a soundtrack for the last gasp of summer, try a set of sweet singles by singer/songwriter Tawny Ellis.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Ellis splits her time between Los Angeles and New Orleans, and it shows in her music. A sultry compilation of twangy strings and smoky vocals, Ellis delivers a collection that showcases her considerable talent.
In a move that seems to be indicative of the future of how music is released, Ellis is doling out her creations one by one over several months, one tasty morsel at a time.
With her first release, “What She Don’t Know” (available on iTunes) Ellis gets her Sheryl Crow on. A cautionary tale of love and loss, this song’s strong chorus, complemented by a compelling vocal track, draws you in even further after the second and third listening.
Her August 6 release, “Love Is Your Name” (available on iTunes) has a more anthemic and serious message with some nicely contrasting string arrangements. Angst-ridden vocals and a building percussion track round out the intensity.
But it’s the yet-to-be-shared “This Great Divide” that really caught my ear. Tight harmonies add to its achy pull. It's a lovely and soaring ballad that showcases Ellis' knack for intertwining melodies and strings.
You can find the first two songs below and at her website, tawnyellis.com. But don’t forget to come back for the third, and more, I’m sure. It’s worth it!!
Friend of WIM and the future Ex-Mrs. Stafford, the beautiful and talented Tawny Cash-Ellis, is dropping a new album soon.
So how does first single “What She Don’t Know” measure up?
It’s well worth a spin. The track is a mid-tempo pop song in the tradition of the seventies West Coast singer/songwriters. Our heroine is in fine voice here, and she is accompanied by some sweet slide guitar. “What She Don’t Know” would be right at home on a soundtrack or with country, pop, or adult audiences. It’s the kind of track that given the right support will be huge.
But don’t listen to me listen for yourself, and while you’re there download a copy. Come on, you can pay a buck to show a great indie artist some love: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/what-she-dont-know/id645638979?i=645639634. While you’re there download “Tonight I Drink Whiskey” if it applies to you. Don’t look at me like that — you know who you are.
And since you’re already on the intergooglewebtubes, how about you go over to Facebook and like her page? Do me a favor, though: Don’t mention all that “future ex-wife” stuff. First of all, it violates the restraining order, and second she won’t know who you’re talking about.
Tawny Ellis song “What She Don’t Know” is this week download of the week is a unsigned artist that will be very shortly. Tawny was kind enough to contact me through the website and I have to say I am glad that she did. I first hear her music and I knew I had to feature her on the website some how.
This song is just chucked full of emotion that makes you stop what you are doing so you can listen to every little bit of it. The song starts off with acoustic guitars and drums and then her voice comes in at just the right tone. the chorus of this song is also very well done. The harmony that was done is amazing and not every artist is able to do but she was able to pull it off. Also everything ties together so nicely and some songs don’t even do that any more.
This song is so well done that once it’s done you want to take a listen to it over again.
I TO YOU, Tawny Ellis, Music Building Records
I To You, the fourth studio album by Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Tawny Ellis, is a deep (like the Yankees' bullpen is deep), texturally rich, mostly acoustic affair; it's also -- without a doubt -- her finest release to date.
For starters, it is beautifully and simply recorded, showing off the clarity and timbre of each instrument, perhaps the most pleasing of which is Ellis' voice. It's the sort of voice one could make a meal of, in the vein of Neko Case or Ray LaMontagne, and her texturally rich music calls to mind the work of those artists -- not to mention country singers from years, if not ages, past.
Ellis, a native of Savannah, Georgia, calls upon her Southern roots at will, injecting several tracks with a homespun, often smoky, feel. Highlights include the title track, "Why Can't I Be Her," "I Don't Want to Fight" and her killer cover of Bob Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee." But there's more than enough variety in context, tempo and instrumentation to keep the album interesting, with one surprise after another.
Let me get this out of the way: Tawny Ellis can sing. The girl’s got a voice and she controls it well, none of the shrill runs and histrionics that one might expect following the assertion “Tawny Ellis can sing.” She also isn’t wearing a meat dress or a cone bra or otherwise posturing for your attention, and neither is her music. It is tasteful, simple music fit for grown-ups.
The apparent influences on I To You, her latest album are myriad, and honestly I don’t want to condescend (nor do I wish to embarrass myself) by enumerating who and what I think I hear. It’s irrelevant. We’re all the sum of our influences, and we all hope to make something new out of those bits and pieces.
And I won’t pretend to know what Ellis and her partner, Giovanni Loria, had in mind when writing the songs that comprise I To You. At first glance it appears to be a straightforward alt-countryish collection of breakup songs, and in that context the album works quite well. “What can I do to erase you?” she asks, on “Erase You” adding “not that I want to.” It’s a beautiful sentiment backed by a wonderful, simple string arrangement, and by “simple” I mean “playing on the porch with my family” simple. “Handmade music” simple — no Pro Tools or other studio nonsense allowed.
If I were in the throes of post-relationship depression I’d latch onto that track for dear life while taking the advice of the album’s next cut, “Tonight I Drink Whiskey.” No doubt about it: If you’re looking for a good wallow you’ll find it here.
But I To You throws us a curveball in the late innings with “Dear Muse,” an open letter to, well, to the speaker’s muse. What is a self referential cut about making art doing in the middle of a cycle of breakup/relationship songs? I must have listened to the album sequentially twenty times trying to crack that safe, and when the last tumbler fell into place the album took on a second life that wasn’t apparent while I was staring into my shot glass.
I To You, both the song and the album, opens with the lines “Coward trudging along, a secret way down in my bones.” Isn’t that how everyone who makes art feels? We’re putting one foot in front of the other daily, but we’re scared out of our minds. And though we’re trying to connect sometimes that “secret way down in our bones” is just a bit too much to expose. The album works not only as a collection of relationship songs, but as an artist battling with her creative herself, her muse.
Without hearing a note, consider the following song titles as if they were chapter titles in a novel:
- I To You
- Erase You
- Tonight I Drink Whiskey
- I’m Alive
- She Stays
- One More Cup of Coffee
- Why Can’t I Be Her
- Dear Muse
- All My Life
- I Don’t Want To Fight
Whether you were hoping for a book about a breakup or an artist battling with her creative muse, those are chapters that are going to bring the goods.
Good work leaves room for the reader/listener/viewer to bring his or her own experience to the proceedings. That’s what going on here, without question. I’m not a beautiful woman with an Emmylou Harris-purty voice, I’m a nerdy middle-aged bald guy who can’t carry a tune and struggles to string two coherent sentences together. But what Tawny Ellis has done on I To You is given me room to crawl around inside her songs as if they were meant for me.
Enough. I can’t say anything here that isn’t much better understood by simply listening for yourself. I To You is available October 12, 2011 at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/TawnyEllis and other music sites.
Looking for more info? Visit the lovely Ms. Ellis’s page here: http://www.TawnyEllis.com.
It’s always possible to read more into the music and words of a performer than is actually there. When the first song on an album is also its title track, I always experience a moment of expectation, of the anticipation of a song sequence, of a form of musical storytelling: not quite of a concept album (no-one really makes those anymore), but of a cycle of songs, interconnected in their themes, which display a definite beginning and end. Then when I listen to an album such as I To You I soon realise that I am of course projecting concepts of my own onto the words and music of others, particularly when, as with Tawny Ellis and her songs, there isn’t an immediately noticable sense of hidden depth, of ambiguity and mystery within the songwriting and vocals.I To You is a skilfully played and refreshingly down to earth song collection, songs that express themes and ideas which just about anyone hearing them will instantly recognise.
“I To You”, the song, is brightly played, smartly crafted and unapologetically, a love song. It’s also an intricately developed melody, and with backing musicians whose CVs include work alongside artistes as diverse as the Indigo Girls, Jack Johnson, Pink, Dizzy Gillespie and Bob Dylan, it’s also only the first of a sequence of what are very high quality performances from both Tawny Ellis and her band. The musicianship never overwhelms Tawny’s own songs or voice though. Throughout, I To You is a finely produced and committed performance from everyone involved. Tawny herself remains seemingly nonplussed by the array of talents bringing added dimensions to her already luminous, deceptively inventive songwriting. Intruigingly, Tawny Ellis almost entirely avoids slipping into the lyrically involved, fragile confessional that so many of her contemporaries bring to the stage. It’s slightly underplayed, but there’s a combination of both realism and optimism in her words that reveals Tawny as a lady with both feet very firmly on the ground, one whose lyricism is tempered by her everyday experience but also has the ability to bring an added depth to even the most unremarkable events.
So, I made it past the album’s first and title track and realised that, while the world of Tawny Ellis isn’t perhaps a very mysterious or magical one, there’s plenty going on. “Erase You” is a heartfelt and lyrically strident plea for personal independence in the context of a collapsing relationship. “Tonight I Drink Whiskey” is exactly the song its title suggests, a barroom escapade set to a keening slide guitar. “She Stays” has both Tawny and her musicans developing their sound, leaving me to question whether or not I can hear a backwards guitar part amongst the percussion, vibes and cello. “Why Can’t I Be Her” shows Tawny at her most vulnerable, a solo guitar and vocal performance that’s as affecting as it’s uncomplicated, and which also reveals that Tawny Ellis could carry the entire album minus her backing band. It’s the track which very firmly asserts her own presence across the ten tracks of I To You, were that in any doubt, although anyone who has heard this much of the album will already hold both Tawny and her songs in quite some regard by this point. “Dear Muse” is a real highlight though, a softly handled ballad that’s given an added depth by some softly unobtrusive strings. Finally, “I Don’t Want To Fight” is a very different kind of song to much of what has preceded it, folk influenced, its echoing drums and swaying rhythm a notable departure from what are the mainly country sounds of the rest of the album, and it ends the album on a memorably strident note.
There’s an invention and depth to Tawny Ellis’s music that might surprise anyone. Her songs consistently surprise and captivate with their blend of lyrical realism and resonant instrumentation, and Tawny’s voice is that of an accomplished and evocative interpreter of her own words. I To You is an album that does, I’ve decided, contain a story at its centre, and it’s also almost the perfect album for one of those bright, warm late summer days that always end sooner than they should.
I To You Album Review
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 fucked 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, barroom style, with a classic old-school country beat. And then One More Cup of Coffee is a terrific re-imagining 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 its 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.
(Acclaimed Poet & Author of “Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction”)
Sante Fe Weekley
SANTA FE WEEKLY April 2010: One of the best things about being located between Los Angeles and Austin (kind of) is that Santa Fe can funnel all the best acts on their way to South by Southwest. One of those acts is Tawny Ellis, who brings her sweet yet tangy, pure yet soulful melodies to Santa Fe the day after her birthday. Ellis has always listened to country music, so while she has explored everything from tear-jerking blues to rock ’n’ roll, she always comes back to her roots. Her latest album, Evolve or Die, ranges from the title track, which boasts a strong bass-drum heartbeat coupled with etherial backing vocals under Ellis’ strong singing, to a syrupy ballad like “Come On Back to My House” to an old-timey swinging tune like “Baby You’re the One.” She’ll play it all, and don’t let her forget to blow out the birthday candles. (Chloe Davis)
August 19, 2009
Tawny Ellis, evolver
The L.A. singer/songwriter (and Savannah native) goes country
How did Tawny Ellis pull it off? Because she’s very, very good. Evolve or Die (think a goth Patsy Cline, or the Emmylou Harris/Daniel Lanois collaboration Wrecking Ball, and you’ll get it) brings the Los Angeles resident to Savannah Friday night for a performance at the Guitar Bar.
CONNECT SAVANNAH: (link for article)
April 29, 2009
Duke - http://oorspeling.blogspot.com
If Galileo Galilei was famous for his words 'And yet, it moves', one will remember me as the man who said 'and yet, it exists'. And then those who will have known me will specifiy that I meant good country music. With 'Evolve or Die' Tawny Ellis is making a generous contribution to the support of this thesis. Calling this record Country is actually too limiting, but just Americana on the other hand is too generic. Can we agree that it is something in between? Ellis has a voice and a way of singing that reminds grand ladies like Emmylou Harris, Peggy Lee or Pasty Cline. Of the latter she brings a great cover of 'Sweet Dreams'. If have a look at the accompanying photo, I think few would mind Tawny having sweet dreams of them. Except for the final slot cover of Bill Mack's 'Blue' and the breathtakingly beautiful 'Endless Black Ribbon', a trucker's wife song by Red Simpson, all the songs have been written by Ellis, some in collaboration with producer Giovanni Loria - who also worked with Jack Johnson, The Black Eyed Peas and Everlast. Ellis is being very well accompanied (you'll recognise immediately Scarlet Rivera's violin on three of the tracks!) and the arrangements are exquisite, with a little modern touch here and there, that however never spoils the classic feeling. A beautiful example is the fabulous title song which is carried by a solid piano base that we remember from the Rick Rubin Johnny Cash collaborations. Or take 'I Already Know You' where Damian Fanelli shines on electric guitar. The magic is complete on 'Come Back To My House': here the worlds of Dylan's 'Blood On The Tracks' and 'Desire' collide and Ellis sings with a passion without exaggerating and helped by a stellar arrangement. Tawny Ellis is going to tour this spring and summer and is coming our way. Something to look forward to. Evolve Or Die... if you ask us to, it'll be our pleasure, Tawny.
April 29, 2009
Jonathan Gerald - Bedlam Magazine Los Angeles. CA
It’s a strange phenomenon of Los Angeles that many of its most talented artists are more well known elsewhere than in their own backyard. That’s true of musicians, too, and Tawny Ellis is a perfect example; a supremely talented vocalist and songwriter whose musical roots include Patsy Cline, The Pretenders and Neil Young (she also claims Michaelangelo, David Bowie and Ernest Hemingway, though these are less obvious) who is more well known in Arkansas and Belgium than in L.A. -- except, perhaps, among knowledgeable aficionados. She is one of those performers who you just know is going places – although in fairness, she ‘s already been a few (Arkansas and Belgium are just two) and you’ve probably her on movie and TV soundtracks. The title song of her latest album, “Evolve or Die,” is featured on the track of “women of the West,” an upcoming feature that reunites most of the cast of the HBO series, “Deadwood.” “Evolve or Die” is a playful, soulful and rich exploration of country consisting of mostly original songs. It is an excellent showcase for Ellis’ vocal range and her songwriting talent. There’s a touch of blues (“Train”) and a delightful Bill Mack composition (“Blue”) that includes some truly masterful guitar work and a nostalgic bit of scratchy-record post-production that fits perfectly. Ellis has knife-edged, crystal-clear, pitch-perfect voice that can quiver and twang, soar to delicate heights and swoop to a rich, guttural fullness: what holds it all together is her heart-wrenching emotional presence at the center of the song.
March 31, 2009
Alex Cleary - www.americana-uk.com
LA-centric chanteuse evolves into countrified troubadour Ms Ellis, formerly a purveyor of a rock oriented rootsy brand of Americana, turns out “Evolve or Die”, a third full-length that exhibits strong country leanings. She dives into her countrified aesthetic with gusto and a straight face, and pulls it off wonderfully. The opening couple of tracks are all bouncing Gibson rhythm and twanging Telecaster, lyrics of heartbreak sung in a soaringly beautiful and world-weary voice. It’s country, true blue and full of heart and honesty. It’s also a very bracing way to open a record and an approach that Ellis could have easily sustained throughout the rest of the track list, but the sound ultimately approaches a broader kind of Americana. The title track and album highlight strides along over a marching band drumbeat, buoyed by a gospel choir backing and in this way managing to be both stirring and soulful. “Train” is jaunty and jazz inflected, ethereal and strange, vocals distant with reverb, and “Come On Back to My House” is a bittersweet and defiant slice of alt. country, swelling with elegiac grandeur. “Evolve or Die” was a wonderful surprise. It’s smart and sweet, managing to sound fresh while operating within established and well worn musical conventions, centred around a very genuine emotional core and delivered with passion and conviction in a truly beautiful voice. Ms Ellis, it seems, is evolving into a very exciting artist. Date review added: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Reviewer: Alex Cleary Reviewers Rating: 8 of 10
January 06, 2009
Mr Blue Boogie - BILLYBOP RECORDS/ ROOTSVILLE (Belgium)
“Evolve or Die” is already the third album for Ellis and the title track of this album was used in the new HBO film “A woman in the West”, that brings together once more the main cast of DeadWood. Leading track of the album “Baby you’re the one” is one of the current singles of the album that hit the airwaves as is the second track “ Endless Black Ribbon”. Both are 100% country tunes as are many other songs on this album! This marks Tawny deriving an more specific sound instead of the sometimes rather general Americana moniker. On “Train” without doubt one of the better tunes on the album, we hear a more “rocking” Tawny Ellis. Here she is mixing early Rockabilly influences with alt.country into a appealing tune that keeps lingering on for a long time. “I Already know” is also a great tune, with reflections of old country influences. Here you can hear once more the possibilities of her voice and the song writing talent of Tawny Ellis and her musical partner Giovanni Loria! “Sweet dreams” the patsy Cline tune takes us once more to classic country territory as does “Blue” the Bill Mack tune. Evolve or die is simply said a great country album for both purists as lovers of the newer genres of country.
April 03, 2009
Carol Gehring -
From Rock to Rockabilly, singer/songwriter Tawny Ellis cannot be classified under any genre when it comes to the musical range of her sometimes sultry, sometimes gritty, sometimes delicate, but always pure, vocals. Ellis’ vocal quality is never distant: it reaches quite deep, and before you know it, you are humming a tune from her latest album, Evolve or Die. Ellis has a vulnerability and openness to her vocals on this CD that has not been heard since the likes of Patsy Cline. Ellis writes and crafts all the original lyrics, while Giovanni Loria, her long time writing partner, co-wrote and produced the album. Ellis loves to write original music, but finds great joy from reinterpreting old classics like Endless Black Ribbon, bringing them the attention and respect they deserve today. Ellis’ is happiest when she is in a room playing live with her band, or other musicians. Unlike the layered studio feel, Tawny feels more comfortable when she is not fighting for musical space in an overproduced, environment. Evolve or Die, evolved from that space of simplicity that only live performance brings. This process is continuing into her next album she is working on. Ellis is keeping the landscape clear, and letting her voice come through organically. Finally making albums she wants to make with friends where she lives, and works. Less is more, as far as she is concerned, and she can certainly evolve, and relax into that. Ellis took her involvement with the Hear Me Project, and R-Bar as an opportunity to raise money and awareness for the project. Hear Me raises funds in order to create music and video studios (pods) for orphans globally. Plans are in the works to do an international tour in conjunction with International House of Blues and Live Nation for another fundraising event. Stay tuned. Music Review Carol Gehring
February 12, 2009
Max W. Achatz - Country Jukebox Germany 09
Tawny Ellis, born in Savannah, Georgia lives and works now in Los Angeles, California. Her own strong and confident musical talent relies on her unique original lyrics and interpretations. Evolve Or Die is already her third C.D. following her much praised Shelter. Evolve Or Die is simple, clean and sparse, complementing her personality and her variety of song arrangements to match the diversity of many American traditions. 6 out of 9 songs were written by herself or in collaboration with her partners. She does not like to be categorized or pinned down in a style or direction which actually seems to suit her well and gives her great long term advantage in the music world. The singer/songwriter has a very high standard of song writing and a very natural voice and sound which gaines her increasing respect with a wider audience. Her musical influences reach from Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris to Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan , Neil Young, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie and even the Pretenders. Her broad variety of musical mixes and influences keeps her in tow with all her predecessors. With her latest album she gained success in the Country Music arena with pieces like “Endless Black Ribbon“, the opening „Baby Your The One“, and the Patsy Cline-classic, Sweet Dreams“ and LeAnn Rimes’ famous Bill Mack-number Blue“. A special highlight with a touch of Rockabilly Tawny Ellis original "Train“ ,shows off her talented rock n roll side. Evolve Or Die is a very successful and exciting mix showing the various talents of this beautiful singer/songwriter that you should not ignore.
- See more at: http://tawnyellis.com/evolve_or_die_reviews/#sthash.P3Qw9gBe.dpuf
February 05, 2007
Reviewer: Rich/ UK - FAN
A Genuinely Impressive Album Comparisons can be useful when trying to review music – they can be an initial reference point for potential fans, an indication of reverence (being linked with a hero/heroine of the reviewer etc) or a complete millstone round the neck of the artist being reviewed. What hit me immediately in the first track ‘Is It Me’ was how Tawny’s voice reminded me so much of Maria McKee – a coincidence given that both have had albums titled ‘Shelter’?! This, in my book, is a reverential comparison as Lone Justice were a fine band, and McKee a hugely talented singer. For a reference point I think that ‘Shelter’ comes across on the whole as something Sheryl Crow fans who prefer a bit more rock than country would find appealing – there is an underlying relaxed air to the songs although this breaks free with ‘Hollywood Tragedy’, my own personal favourite, which opens with a rocky riff and continues in that vein. If anything the middle of this album provides the more upbeat tunes but I think that is possibly a deliberate ploy in the order the tracks appear – there’s a peak halfway through but more in terms of the pace of the tracks as opposed to the quality which remains a constant throughout. Two other female vocalists sprang to mind as I listened to the album – a little bit of Siouxsie Sioux and also a hint of Cinder Block (more so when she was in Tilt) so Tawny Ellis is certainly not a vocalist stuck in a rut! The songs are engaging and the lyrics worth listening to (and reading), which is always a bonus as so many songs these days come across as bland and un-interesting. I’ve been humming the tunes since first playing the album and it’s one which to me is not a grower as it’s already reached its maturity in the first listen. I have to recommend this album and do so without classifying it to any genre – it’s simply a damn fine album and does not need to aligned with any type of music. I now have to buy the first album and see if that matches up to Shelter.
May 07, 2007
Madalyn Sklar - www.GoGirls.com
Tawny Ellis roars with her CD, "Shelter". Her latest effort is strong and with personality. Ms. Ellis is a star on the rise
July 19, 2007
Shelter is an album that gives me hope for the future of rock. I love the edge, the emotion, the raw, full notes. The production takes me back to a time when solo instruments could be heard in a composition. Not like much of today's over-dubbed, three-cord-crunch. So to you and your band-mates, a well-deserved tip of the hat.
April 23, 2007
Basile - Basile Radio Rome, IT
"Shelter" is the Tawny Ellis second album, and she seems to be musically grown up a great lot from her "Kneegirl" of 2002. This attractive artist, born in Savannah, Georgia, moved around Us quite extensively when she was a child because of her father in the Air Force; but when she reached her teenage period, she went definitely to LA and after a while started to write, record and perform live in California. Tawny surely rocks but her basic influences, Blondie and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders fame, make her always sailing in passionate and touching melodies, the ones you don't forget for a long time. The lyrics are engaging and significant, her songs are easy and catchy, the voice sensual but aggressive at the same time. The music production is at high quality level, trade marked by the clever excellent hands of the well known Skip Saylor. Giovanni Loria,Tawny's musical director, co-writer of the songs, plays bass and great guitar solos. An important album, to be listened several times enjoing it every time. I've chosen to play the most up tempo song of the album, "Hollywood Tragedy", a real sweet.
January 04, 2007
Went to hear Blondie, went to hear Patti both live and you and your band are way beyond any comparison. I haven't heard anything quite as much fun or quite as good in a long time. Nice to hear something real with a little passion for a change. CHEERS
February 03, 2007
Steve - Street Voice UK Music Magazine
TAWNY ELLIS – Shelter: Tawny Ellis is a young independent Pop artist from the USA and while this genre of music isn't really my thing I have to give credit where it's due and give this the thumbs up. While so many female Pop artists rely on looking the part the same can't said of this lady. OK so she is very pretty and in a commercial sense very marketable but there's one plus that Tawny possesses which so many of her counterparts haven't got and that is having a great voice. Every song on this release just shows what an excellent voice this lady possesses and it's her voice that just draws you in. Musically many of the numbers could have been a bit more upbeat but that shouldn't really spoil your enjoyment as Tawny's voice more than makes up for that little misdemeanor. However there's some songs that the backing band got it right and they include 'Let Me Sleep beside You', 'Hollywood Tragedy', 'What Kind Of Man' and 'Shelter'. Given the right backing any of those four songs would proudly sit highly in the commercial charts. I'd love to hear more from Tawny Ellis but in the meantime I'll enjoy what she has on offer on this album. What's more for a self financed album this is well packaged release that any artist should be proud of.
- See more at: http://tawnyellis.com/shelter_reviews/#sthash.TeXlzTJo.dpuf