I am here for the understated charm of Eleanor Underhill and if you're a true blue songstress fan, you will be too. Underhill folded Americana, rock and indie-pop into a charming origami totem. Her words and high level instrument prowess have given this album a lot of clout. She is heavily disciplined in several instruments including guitar, piano, trombone ukulele but her main bread and butter these days is the banjo, and she wields it beautifully. Born in Williamsburg, Virginia, Underhill currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina and I happen to be quite familiar with both areas. I am not shocked to hear a musical sound so sweet and airy come from that part of the country. Lots of green, lots of fresh air and the beach never too far away when you need it.
Let's kick it off with that voice of hers. Yes, yes and yes, she has an incredible, powerful voice that is very good at injecting sunshine and heart into her words. She has a lot of tonal range as well. She can be sweet and demure or galvanizing and commanding. Sometimes she manages to pull that off in a single sentence. She has a lot of influences and they all collide so beautifully in terms of her vocal performance. I would say the instrument she plays with the most efficiency is definitely that voice box.
Underhill is also one hell of a writer. Her pen is definitely its own instrument. Again, her eclectic tastes come in handy as they allow her to delve into all sorts of writing styles. Sometimes her songs are thick with metaphors and sometimes they are far more straightforward. One thread the lyrics on all the songs seem to share is that there is a lot of deep, personal emotion taking place. The moods she illustrates lyrically are diverse and very much human. That's part of the appeal. Usually strong writers tend to pull back when it comes to musical risks to let the lyrics shine through. Underhill is quick to be an exception to this rule.
Keeping with the the diversity of her tastes, the music has some interesting twists and turns. The opening track "Imperfect World" had me completely undone. It is raw with emotion and layered beautifully with unexpected sounds giving it an indie and even a little jazzy edge to it. This motif is revisited a few times through the album, and each time I was thoroughly engaged. It's interesting how there is a big contrast between moods with the Americana and the more indie stuff. To be honest, I think these two moods could easily stand alone as their own albums, but I don't mind the mashup for this album too much. While I did enjoy the succulent, sweet southern charm of the other two songs, the indie, jazzy allure of "Imperfect World" was still haunting me.
This is Underhill's debut solo album, and it packs quite an impressionable punch. I can tell she has a lot of ideas and I hope she has the opportunity to explore them all to her heart's content.
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