Review: Elisa Korenne – Concrete

September 27, 2013
By Andrew Greenhalgh on the Along the Way blog

Some artists are great musicians, crafting sweeping, stirring arrangements that move the soul. Others rely on their songwriting abilities to do the same, letting their words conjure mental pictures that cut to the heart. And while there are some that manage to do both to varying degrees, it’s the rare breed that is great at both, tying truly great musical compositions together with lyrical prowess that shines.

Elisa Korenne is a singer-songwriter who falls into the latter category.

Korenne’s story is one that reads backwards compared to many budding artists whose journeys have led them to the big city in search of fame and fortune. In fact, Korenne’s story found her moving from the busy streets of Brooklyn, New York to New York Mills, Minnesota, a hole in the wall town boasting a population of 1,197. And it’s this formative time in her life that the artist mines for her latest release, Concrete.

The album comes at a time where Korenne has already seen more than her fair share of accolades, earning songwriting awards from the Plowshares Songwriting Contest, Sisters Folk Festival, and Great American Song Contest, among others, while having work used in productions by HBO, VH1, and ABC. Artistic fellowships have come her way as well as she’s toured both stateside and internationally, gracing the stage and headlining at the Nevers-a-Vif music festival in France while drawing favorable comparisons to fellow artists such as Liz Phair, Sarah McLachlan, and Melissa Etheridge.

Korenne starts things off simply with “Know Better,” a solid adult contemporary acoustic pop rocker fueled with something of a sitar solo that sets it apart before moving into the jazzy vibes of the title track. Buoyed by a low-key, sultry arrangement that features some bright trumpet fills that provide an extra edge, “Concrete” is the tent pole of the album, showcasing solid lyricism and capturing the album’s emotional soul, representing the shifts taking place during the artist’s life at the time she’s singing about.

“In New York, I was surrounded by concrete, the streets, the buildings, and the sidewalks. But, at the same time, I didn’t have emotional concreteness,” she shares.

“Keep It In My Heart” finds the Korenne drawing moody notes together over a subdued composition while “Color Me In” draws with brighter tones, it’s tale of love buoyed by a flexible vocal delivery. Some road trip worthy fare is found on “Yours for a Song,” the acoustic guitar and persistent drumbeats laying forth a warmhearted trail for listeners to follow as “Ferris Wheel” mellows out with steel guitar swells and fingerpicked guitar.

And while those are all fine tracks, it’s when the artist really digs in, pushing the limits somewhat, that she really shines. “Love to Love” is a great case in point. Based upon the life of pioneering feminist, Victoria Woodhull, the track is filled with gritty lyricism that is almost growled rather than sung and a blues rock vibe that really frames the track perfectly. “Lean Into the Curve” is another rousing highlight, the artist jamming out over a funky blues arrangement complete with a kicking horn section and “wah wah” guitars while “100 Miles to Nowhere” finds her tapping into her Americana roots, a restless country note resounding through.

“Trail of Broken Hearts” is something altogether different, almost recalling the eclecticism of Regina Spektor offering up an almost vintage-flavored soundscape, Korenne’s vocal adapting to the old school sonic template while the track pushes forward with a smile. Percussion carries the near sensuous “A Little Bit of Salt,” the artist utilizing some vocal elements to play off the throbbing drums and showing plenty of soul while “Take Me Slowly” rounds out the highlights, smoldering and unashamed in its sexual connotations. It’s an appropriately slow builder, Korenne’s vocals smooth and teasing the track to its amped up conclusion.

Elisa Korenne’s Concrete captures more than an artist crafting great songs; it’s bound to catch the ear of any and all listeners fortunate enough to come into contact with it. Concrete is a stirring album filled with solid musicianship, soulful vocals, and well-crafted lyrics. If you like strong, thoughtful music, this one’s for you.

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