Friday, June 21, 2019

Michelle Allen: “Safe From The Storm” (2018) CD Review

Michelle Allen is a singer and songwriter based in Colorado. You might know her from her work with Tupelo Honey, a band that came to a sudden and sad end when Nancy Thorwardson succumbed to breast cancer in 2017. Late last year Michelle Allen released a solo album, Safe From The Storm, which features all original songs. In addition to the vocals, Michelle plays rhythm guitar and banjo. Joining her on this release are her son Jason Allen on upright bass and charango; Eric Thorin on upright bass and backing vocals (Thorin also produced the album); Taylor Simms on acoustic guitar, electric guitar and backing vocals; Natalie Padilla on fiddle, banjo and backing vocals; Russ Meissner on drums and percussion; and Eric Moon on piano and accordion. There are also some special guests on certain tracks.

The album gets off to an excellent start with “Deaf Dumb & Blind,” a tune that is somewhere between folk and country, with a groovy, cheerful vibe. “No matter how I try, I can’t understand you/It’s only through your touch that the meaning comes through.” Ah yes. This track features a nice little bluegrass jam with some good work on banjo. I bet this song will have you smiling before long. That’s followed by “Dark Eyes,” which has a somewhat more somber tone, and features some nice work on guitar. “You come knocking on my door/Well, I ain’t got the strength no more/To balance on the edge and not fall.” Then “Safe From The Storm,” the album’s title track, is a sweeter, pretty folk song featuring some wonderful harmonies. It has a gentle, friendly style and approach. This is a song designed to make you feel less alone in the world. “I still recall/The old front porch swing/And the tunes Grandpa played in the dark/As we lay in our beds/Half asleep in a dream/Home kept us safe from the storm.”

I absolutely love the jazzy, cool vibe of “Man In The Moon” the moment the track starts. This is one of my favorite tracks, and it features more wonderful harmony vocals, as well as a delicious timeless gypsy flavor. There is some excellent stuff on bass, and check out that great work on piano! “And since I met you under the stars/I’ve been trying to figure out who you are/The moon casts shadows long and dark.” That’s followed by another of the disc’s highlights, “Surrender.” Jessie Burns plays fiddle on this one, delivering some gorgeous, moving work. This track also features Jon Sousa on guitar. “My defenses are low/And the white flag is flying/Surrender is the best I can do.”

“Waiting For A Latte” is a fun, somewhat playful number featuring more good work on piano. I seriously dig this tune’s vibe and style. “I looked him in the eye/Dressed him down and sized him up/I smiled in his direction/And I called his bluff.” It becomes a cool jam in the second half, and I like that loose drumming. That’s followed by “Uncommon Weather,” a kind of sweet tune. “I know to be together means to be apart.” Michelle Allen plays banjo on this track. Then “Love Is Blind” is a wonderful, adorable song, with some delightful backing vocals. It is for me another of the disc’s highlights. “After forgetting what I once knew/Here I am falling, falling for you.” The album concludes with “Howling Wilderness Saloon,” with a good western rhythm. “Oh, that woman, she drove him mad/He dreamed most nights she was lying in his bed.” I could do without the crowd noise at the beginning and end, but I still enjoy this song. “He needed a good square meal/And one strong drink/At the Howling Wilderness Saloon.”

CD Track List
  1. Deaf Dumb & Blind
  2. Dark Eyes
  3. Safe From The Storm
  4. Say It Like It Is
  5. Man In The Moon
  6. Surrender
  7. Cool Water
  8. Waiting For A Latte
  9. Uncommon Weather
  10. Love Is Blind
  11. Howling Wilderness Saloon 
Safe From The Storm was released on December 6, 2018.

2 comments:

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  2. I love this album too! Michelle Allen is a wonderful singer/songwriter whose music easily bridges Americana, Folk and Bluegrass. Her lyrics are heartwarming and honest and she is able to connect with listeners' emotions, both happy, sad and everything in between. The musicians she assembled for this CD are top notch and complement her playing without overwhelming it.
    Although I love all of the tracks, my favorites are Safe from the Storm, Surrender and Howling Wilderness Saloon. Add this CD to your music library . . . you won't be disappointed!

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