Eleanor Tallie – No Turning Back
Born in Israel and currently residing in the Memphis, Tennessee area, Eleanor Tallie’s full on embrace of American musical forms isn’t a bad fit at all. She clearly has a transformative voice – these are pipes capable of redeeming weak material through sheer force of passion. Her interpretative skills are immense. The six songs on her debut No Turning Back shows a singer and writer who has thoroughly processed and memorized all of the lessons she gathered listening to and loving American music. There are even hints of genuine rock and roll spirit hovering in the background on some of the songs. This is a singer who, at risk of cliché, is the total package.
It kicks off on a blistering note with “Hell Or Heaven”. Guest vocalist Lil Riah is, unintentionally, almost an afterthought thanks to Tallie’s scintillating phrasing and her articulate lyrics that never overreach. Tallie is clearly a believer that lyrics must be functional, never ornamental, within a musical context, but she equally wants them to actually say something rather than just feeling like they’re tacked on. “I Tried” depends on its tasty instrumental hook to draw listeners in and its slinky movement will undoubtedly make it a favorite cut from the recording and in a live setting. Tallie’s voice has unquestioned power, but its elasticity, particularly here, will impress a lot of people. “Sunlight” is a much more meditative, soulful piece. The sparse arrangement emphasizes the importance of individual parts falling where they should rather than overwhelming the listener with empty virtuosity. “My Present” is a delectable cut of jazzy funk that rises and falls throughout its running time. It’s more evidence, if any were needed, of Tallie’s blooming songwriting ability that masters dynamics so readily. Her vocal blusters and soothes, but there’s a delightful amount of playfulness running as an undercurrent in her voice.
“Gotta Be Happy” casts its nets wide enough that the players get an opportunity to take solo turns that enrich the song rather than undermine it and draw attention to themselves. Tallie delivers the EP’s most soulful vocal, but she maintains a relaxed strength throughout that gives the song a resoluteness of spirit. There’s a feeling, after hearing this, Tallie may not be happy yet, but by god, she will be. Her determination sparks hotter on No Turning Back’s final song, “A Real Man”. It’s pretty inescapable, after hearing her lyrics, this isn’t just wish fulfillment and that Tallie’s had enough experiences with “unreal” men to give her some sort of clue about what she’s searching for now. Thanks largely to the guitar’s presence in this song, “A Real Man” flirts with some inkling of rock and roll snarl, but Tallie keeps things blue and never lets that go too far afield.
No Turning Back deals with a variety of emotions, embodies them dramatically in its music, and turns in a solid set of six performances. There’s no filler here. While it’s likely some songs were left unfinished or consigned to the cutting room floor, it’s certain that Tallie chose the best possible songs for her debut.
9 out of 10 stars.