Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Erica Sunshine Lee – Elixir

Erica Sunshine Lee – Elixir 

If listeners expect Erica Sunshine Lee to be slowing down after seven albums, they are quite mistaken. Her seventh studio release Elixir is a fifteen song set that finds her as inspired and committed to great music as ever before. Her voice has an imposing amount of gusto on every song and it isn’t difficult to imagine her wanting to slump into a deep chair and rest, covered in sweat, after every performance. This sort of commitment to getting a song across to the audience and communicating isn’t easy to find in the modern landscape. Erica Sunshine Lee sounds like she is with every word on Elixir and, regardless if she’s singing about Jesus or drinking, she brings a tremendous amount of passion to bear and more than a little musicality. The result is a collection that’s sure to entertain longtime fans of the genre, but likewise will reach across the musical boundaries and draw fans into the music who might not otherwise listen to country or its rock influenced variations.  

The album’s first song, “Shut Up Heart”, carries some of that rock and roll spirit, but it’s predominantly country in approach. It isn’t entirely accurate to cite this as a example of the current school of thought in favor with the genre, but it definitely wouldn’t sound like a poor fit in a radio playlist focusing on that style. The second track “The Bottle Ain’t Enough” is a brawling track full of loud electric guitars, a big chorus, and an unabashed depiction of longing that no amount of liquor can quell. The first muted moment on the album comes with the track “Karma” and there’s some storytelling and comedic aspects to her songwriting talents that get an entertaining work out here. Elixir’s first big peak comes with the piano driven ballad “My Favorite Word” and the impassioned vocal Lee brings to the instrumental track helps push it to even greater heights. She may rely on a number of familiar things in the country genre, but she handles these devices with such creativity and artfulness that you’ll easily forgive her taking place in a long tradition.  

“Medicated” is the sort of damn the torpedoes, honest as a heart attack rocker with country flavor that few artists of any ilk have the nerve to tackle nowadays. Erica Sunshine Lee tears into the lyric completely and gloriously oblivious to its similarity with a half dozen other songs, at least, and you end up loving her for the devil may care attitude rather quickly. The fatalistic edge characterizing songs like this disappears on the bitter reflection of “Pills and Booze” – it’s the hand shaking aftermath of Sunday morning and the realization that something else has taken control of your life. She, appropriately, turns the songwriting in a spiritual direction on the tune immediately following it. “Jesus and Georgia” is a song, at its heart, that’s about connections and how the abiding ones in our life are invariably those that most clearly define us. “Mustard Seed” deals with spiritual matters as well, but its thrust is more in the direction of testimony and it pulls that off without ever sounding pretentious or hamfisted.  Elixir has a lot of different faces, musically and lyrically, and a vocalist at its heart who is capable of tackling any sort of tune. It might run a little long for some, but there’s never a second of it that falls flat.  

9 out of 10 stars 

David Shouse

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