Eleanor Tallie’s Israeli upbringing and classical musical training isn’t the usual pedigree for a soul singer, but Tallie isn’t your usual pop performer. Her debut EP No Turning Back introduces the world to much more than just a great singer – her songwriting skills and talents as a multi-instrumentalist set her far apart from many of her peers. Tallie relocated to the United States in 2013, settled in the Memphis area, and launched her American career with 180 live performances across 30 states during an 18 month time span. When the time came to enter the recording studio and capitalize on that hard work, Tallie enlisted Grammy winning engineer and producer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell to help realize her creative vision.
There’s a strong emphasis on groove throughout the EP. This is apparent from the first few seconds of the release’s first track “Hell or Heaven”. The drums lay down an assertive backbeat before the song begins properly swinging, but things truly take off when Tallie’s voice comes in. “I Tried” immediately sinks its hooks into listeners thanks to the loping, instantly memorable figure the song opens with. The keyboards are soon joined by duplicating guitar lines before the band joins in full. Tallie and the musicians never loosen their tight grip on the groove and the song memorably crescendos in a number of places. Another strength of the first two songs that bears mentioning is the lyrical quality. Tallie won’t be mistaken for Bob Dylan, but she has a distinctly literary style and finds an ideal balance between concrete detail and generalities.
Tallie tempers the mood and pace on “Sunlight”. Groove is still a priority, but there’s a stronger awareness of atmospheric possibilities here than anywhere before on the release. She fills every line with a full investment in every word. The superb musicianship of her players gets another spotlight workout on the playfully slinky “My Present”. The rhythm section confidently moves while never surrendering an inch of ground and the guitar work flashes over top with the same breezy self-assurance. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, “Gotta Be Happy” is easily the EP’s most expansive musical excursion, but it’s arguably the most laid back as well. Once again, atmosphere ranks every bit as high in importance as the groove, but the true highlight of the song is Tallie’s extraordinarily sensitive singing. She glides through each passage with a fire simmering just below the surface of every syllable. The extended length feels wholly appropriate thanks to the constant melodic flair that Tallie and her collaborators bring to their performance.
No Turning Back concludes with “A Real Man”, a rumbling, riff-oriented surprise. Keyboards and understated guitar carry the riff while the rhythm section doubles their parts with brief, occasional flourishes. One of the many good qualities present in Tallie’s singing is how she tackles each song. Unlike many performers, Tallie never attempts to dominate each song. You can hear how she came up through the professional ranks in the way she clearly sings with the instruments, tailoring her vocals to follow their direction, and No Turning Back’s last song illustrates that quality better than any other track. This is a powerful debut that spares no effort attempting to bowl over listeners and succeeds doing so.
9 out of 10 stars.