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Eleanor Tallie – No Turning Back

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Eleanor Tallie’s first EP is divided evenly between slow burn soul tunes, melodic mid tempo tracks, and hard-edged blues/funk fusion. Her voice is the guiding instrument rolling with it all. She has a wonderful mutability with her voice, an ability to elongate and stretch lines in unforgettable ways, and to find unsuspected depths in seemingly throwaway or tossed off lines. It works in perfect musical sympathy with the backing tracks and arrangements – Tallie’s obvious ear for knowing what musical landscapes work best for her results in a release that doesn’t have a single pound of fat on it. Everything here is geared for maximum effect and there isn’t a single component in any of No Turning Back’s six songs that feels unnecessary to the track as a whole.

She gets things off to a rousing start with the first song “Hell Or Heaven”. Lil Riah joins her as a guest vocalist for a small but significant part of the track and contrasts nicely with Tallie’s voice. This is a hard hitting opening and, like the rest of the album, ultra-reliant on the rhythm section’s groove. They are the music’s foundational element. Nothing happens on No Turning Back until the rhythm section establishes the base from which Tallie and her fellow players can explore. It’s scarcely more apparent anywhere than it is on the second song, “I Tried”. This is far and away the most melodic effort on No Turning Back and its hook has enormous commercial potential while remaining defiantly retro. The EP uses keyboards to excellent effect throughout all six songs. Most of the time, they provide understated color, but their larger contributions to a song like “I Tried” is a needed splash of color on an otherwise spartan arrangement. “Sunlight” embodies the EP at its most spartan. Despite the positivity filling much of No Turning Back, there’s an elegiac, melancholic note that fills the song.

She perks things up again with the following cut, “My Present”. There’s a little bitterness and brio underlying her vocal performance here and it makes excellent use of some occasionally saucy attitude. The attitude dissipates on the EP’s second to last track, “Gotta Be Happy”, in favor of another soulful turn. It’s the EP’s longest song, coming close to seven minutes in length, but the extra time doesn’t weigh it down with undue bloat. The musicians and Tallie alike maintain their focus on the song’s melodic virtues and exploit them to the fullest while still taking turns sharing the spotlight. Some of this same design imposes itself on the EP’s final song, “A Real Man”. There are fierier guitar heroics, including a solo, than anywhere else on the album, but it never feels grafted on the song without reason. Everything on No Turning Back has a purpose and brings listeners closer to its emotional truth. These six songs are part of a larger piece and never sound too discordant next to each other. Debuts are frequently a hodgepodge of styles as the young performer tries to do too much and is still working out exactly who they are. There’s no such uncertainty here.

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9 out of 10 stars.

Bradley Johnson