|KARYN ELLIS/HEARTS FALL |
She can make a million shades of blues and reds and swirling violets come out of that music – a different aura for each track.
Karyn Ellis is twangy and cool and unpredictable, delivering a CD that is difficult to classify and impossible to resist. I started with bluesy, front-porch country, then expanded the definition to yee-haw-inspiring bluegrass, and stretched the description a bit more to include some shuffling jazz that would not be out of place in a whiskey-stocked Old West Saloon. Then she had to throw in mystic, cold, poetic goth vibes (“Angels in Snow”) and operatic performance art (“Already Home”).
Yes, Ellis makes the reviewer’s job a difficult one. But I could never get mad at the girl with the sensually childlike voice and that playfully spirited nature that flows through her twangy songs. She’s got me wrapped around her little finger.
At times, I worry for her sanity. It makes sense that she would offer plenty of lyrics about winter, given that she lives in the Great White North, but the images are so brutal, I have to wonder if she’s ever wound up in intensive care with frostbite. Her cheeks are “raw with wind,” and in “Angels in Snow,” she faces Winter itself in a shivering confrontation: “Your smile all crooked and teeth, I breathe in sharply as your lips and my shoulder meet.”
There’s also the split personality of her voice. Such delicate, deliberate pronunciation, like a little girl playing with sounds. Yet the tone can be chilling. “Movie” is a brutal ballad, cryptic yet violent and confrontational, with an almost dangerous quiet lying beneath the surface of the song. At times, she can take that mood and find dark humor in it. “Ode to a Wooden Floor” is an almost erotic love song to the only surface that keeps her steady while she’s suffering a hangover (“screw the furniture, I can’t deal with that,” she sings in her wide-eyed innocent voice).
The title track would have been perfect for the Walk the Line soundtrack. “Already Have” would be perfect for a black-and-white art house flick. The music is primarily piano, stand-up bass, percussion, and guitar, but she can make a million shades of blues and reds and swirling violets come out of that music – a different aura for each track. I think she gets a wicked kick out of confounding writers like me who must try to categorize her music.
So I’ll get her back. So let’s just call Ellis hypnotically brilliant and leave it at that. Nyah nyah.