Tawny Ellis
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Tawny Ellis

Band Alternative Rock

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Jan
24
Tawny Ellis @ The Derby

la, California, USA

la, California, USA

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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. - fan UK


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. - Steve


Discography

Shelter, 2006 (avai on c.d. baby)
Kneegirl by Tawny Ellis released in 2002 (avail on c.d baby)
tawnyellis.com
daveashton.net producer (track :Lately)
soundtracks for V.I.P, The Huntress & misc. other film credits.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Los Angeles-based chanteuse Tawny Ellis, nomadic by design and inspired by Michelangelo, David Bowie and Ernest Hemingway, has emerged with a fresh, femme, gritty rock sound. A potent brew of early Blondie, The Pretenders and Neil Young, Ellis has accrued a legion of fans, seduced by the dynamic live show and an irresistible voice. The latest offering, Shelter, resonates with listeners on a visceral level; melodically it hooks you in and lyrically it haunts you with things you've pondered or felt before.

Noticing a real deficiency of strong, post-adolescent rock frontwomen, Ellis is taking up the cause. “There aren’t a lot of girls out there doing rock, and I’m hoping to fill that void.

Ellis partnered with industry veteran Skip Saylor to produce the album and her long-time writing partner, musical director and multi-instrumentalist Gio Loria. While Ellis crafts the lyrics and melodies, Loria masterfully pulls everything together and co writes. “I write like crazy,” says Ellis. “I have stacks and stacks of journals all over the place. The songs spring from there.”

Ellis’s first album, Kneegirl (2002) was released essentially as an accumulation of demos, with several different producers and musicians – a toe in the water after failed development deals and music industry shake-ups. A marked departure from her first record, Shelter is a tight, raw and focused collection of profoundly strong tunes. The recording process was stripped down and authentic with live tracks being laid down in only three days at the legendary Cherokee Recording Studios where three decades earlier producer Skip Saylor was engineering the legendary Tom Petty album “Damn The Torpedos” with the great Jimmy Iovine. Shelter was finished in just three months.
“This is a real band…we don’t do fake. What – has live music been banned?” she says.

It was Saylor who saw the untapped raw power yet to be discovered in Ellis. “He shook me out of my dreamy state,” she laughs. As they worked, the record morphed into a rock tour de force. It was Saylor who christened her a “rock freak.” Ellis’s diverse background, both geographically and musically, add depth and a fresh dimension to her work.

The list of influences are long and diverse, running the gamut from Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake and John Frusciante to Linda Ronstadt, Nancy Wilson, Talking Heads and yes, Karen Carpenter

The title track on Shelter is an older one but one with an illustrious past. It was written the very first night Ellis and Loria met, a sparkling sign of things to come. Held close to their hearts, they had never before recorded it until now. When trying to name the album, Ellis was stuck trying to find the right title. A close friend said ‘”Are you crazy? It’s ‘Shelter’ – everybody needs it, everybody wants it emotionally, it has such a special meaning.”

“And truly it describes what my life is about – all my life I’ve been building shelter.” Says Ellis.

Shelter has its share of aural treasures, including an extraordinary version of David Bowie’s “Let Me Sleep Beside You.” Ellis had never heard the rare tune until recently. When asked why he had never put it on any former album, Bowie mentions “my mother thinks it’s nasty.” It was at that moment Ellis knew she had to make the song her own. “Bowie has always been a huge inspiration for me…I have dreams of having coffee with him!” Far from being nasty, “I think it’s about coming out of your innocence and opening your eyes and having someone there to share it with,” she says.

The song “Perfect View” recalls a moment standing on a Los Angeles patio, taking in the cold expansive city skyline and feeling so small and lonely…but knowing you have it pretty good, nonetheless. Another remarkable cover on Shelter is “Who The Cap Fit,” a song made famous by Bob Marley, “says everything I feel about politics, people…y’know, like if the shoe fits, wear it. It says everything I want to say but is not aggressive or preachy”

The epitome of the do-it-yourself music movement, Ellis manages to have a hand in everything from writing, recording and performing to conceiving the album image. Proof of her artistic prowess graces the self-designed artwork of Shelter, complete with striking pieces of her own sculpture. “This is such a great time to be an indie artist,” she exclaims. “Incredible opportunities are everywhere. Somehow that worked out for me.” When others may scoff at her description of her own record label, Music Building Records, as “major,” Ellis just laughs. “Hey this is major,” she exclaims. “It’s major that I’m doing this! I am exactly the indie artist in every way.”

But although Georgia native Ellis left home at the age of 16 to “do the music thing,” she was sidetracked by, well, keeping the lights on. “I was moonlighting as a songwriter and keeping it hidden, attending to real life.” At some point, she found herself at a crossroads with other job opportunities. “I realiz