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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Michelle Anthony - Tornadoes

Michelle Anthony - Tornadoes
2010, Merctwyn Records

Kansas City native and current Austin, Texas resident Michelle Anthony returns on November 2, 2010 with her third album, Tornadoes.  Inspired by the new perspectives brought on by motherhood and surviving a near-death experience, Anthony writes autobiographically and in surprisingly positive turns on Tornadoes.  Joined by drummer John Chipman (Band Of Heathens); lead guitarist Grant Tye (Robbie Fulks), Gerald Dye (Robbie Fulks) and Justin Roberts, Anthony has managed to craft her most mature and enthralling work to date.

Tornadoes opens with "Spare Me" a snappy pop tune with wonderful drive and feel.  Anthony's reserved also delivery works well with a message that says it's not as much about what you say in a relationship as how you say it.  This is a great start for the album.  "Tornadoes" explores live upheavals and the periods of peace that follow in a great adult contemporary rock arrangement.  "Permanent" is a soulful adult pop lullaby about the richness of love when it is a real.  The song has a smooth, intellectual depth and striking pop sensibility, and was written for Anthony's newborn son.  Anthony goes for a lush sound with country accents on "Black Coal Heart".  It's not the best songwriting on the album but Anthony paints a pretty aural landscape worth hearing.

"Vacancy" takes a darker turn, taking a look at a side of city life that some never see.  Anthony paints pictures in words and in the charismatic arrangement that freeze time and place even if for a moment.  "Beautiful" is a celebratory love song that finds Anthony working at the edge of her vocal comfort zone; Michelle Anthony shows a few cracks here but the song is very well-written.  "January Singers" has its own distinct cadence.  Anthony sounds nice here, but the song calls for a more dynamic vocal line than she can muster.  Instead Anthony's voice is wrapped up in a wall of sound with her voice buried a bit too far in the mix.  "Don't Deny" shows off Anthony's more pop-oriented side in a catchy rocker before moving into the abstract melancholy of "Yellow Harmony".  Soaked with a sweet melody, "Yellow Honey" is a love song sung from a distance.  Anthony closes with "Lights Of Chicago", a dark and mysterious tune that once again finds Michelle Anthony sounding quite nice, but which seems somewhat out of place on Tornadoes.

Michelle Anthony has an appealing voice within a limited range, and manages quite nicely on much of Tornadoes.  Anthony's songwriting runs from the intellectual folk of Shawn Colvin to the hard-won pop of Sheryl Crow.  When Anthony strays from her comfort zone things don't work quite as well, leaving her voice exposed to its own limitations.  Anthony's choices on Tornadoes are almost always good ones, however, and the album succeeds as a pleasant if occasionally distant collection of songs in the singer/songwriter tradition.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

 Learn more about or on FacebookTornadoes drops on CD on November 2, 2010, but is already available as a download from and iTunes.

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