--- Devon Jackson
Joel McDowell Review of Destiny
--Joel McDowell, handsoffpromotions.com
Devon Jackson Review of Destiny 2/22/13
The basic goal and the unerring quest of the Sufi poets—particularly of the Sufi mystics of the medieval era (Rumi, Hafiz, Omar Khayyam)—was to become one with their beloved. The beloved often being not merely an earthly, carnal version of someone they merely wanted to hook up with, but The Beloved: God, the Supreme Being, the Universe. These Sufi mystics aspired toward a Divine Love. They were seekers of Truth. And they wrote and sang about that love and those aspirations in a way that was sometimes direct, sometimes not, but always heartfelt and spiritual. The same can be said of Ellen M. Wilson. She sings sometimes directly, sometimes not, but always heartfelt and with spirituality and passion. And without being corny, obvious, or preachy. And the music backing her is neither maudlin nor treacly and thankfully never veers into the self-consciousness of a Lilith Fair princess.
Wilson bears no small resemblance to sinewy operatic rock bands like Evanescence and Flyleaf, which mix in tough crunchy guitars and soaring synthesizers beneath and sometimes over the ethereal and sometimes dreamy vocals of their frontwomen (Amy Lee of Evanescence and Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf). Wisely, or maybe fatefully, she chose as her producer T.L. Brown, a songwriter whose musical sensibilities seem to mesh perfectly with the potential and the range of Wilson’s formidable and sublime voice.
These songs—where Sufi meets soul but almost on every cut armed with either an awesome guitar riff or a soaring synthesizer—range from hard rock to country rock to dance club. “Someday” moves from a familiar country rock AM-station number to one where Wilson’s voice carries it to a higher level. Similarly, “Alone” recalls the piano work of Styx and the vocals of Pat Benatar, but the musicians, all from El Paso and all doing great work here—from guitarist Armin Harrison, bassist Dave Hamilton, drummers Danny Sullivan and Justin Conrow—and Brown’s piano-playing and arrangements complement Wilson’s emotionally poignant vocals in a way that’s not only supportive but true to the uplift of the lyrics.
“Shelter Me” and “For You” also kick ass—musically and vocally. They pack an emotional wallop. The guitars are big and gritty, the synthesizers equally large and lofty, and the arrangement always plays off the subtle spiritual mood that’s always there if you want it, but not overly present that it’s in your face.
On “I Will Try,” Wilson works her voice in a way that’s texturally distinct from her other songs. She somehow manages to sing—“I will try/learning along the way . . . I won’t give up/I will be whole someday,” lyrics about change and growth, or trying to change and grow—in a voice that’s younger, less mature, striving. Striving while retaining the strength underneath that’s identifiably Wilson’s.
“It’s Alright” opens with more of an easy-listening vibe. But it’s Culture Club laziness is deceptive, giving way halfway through to a more interesting tempo, a lift in spirit. Again, there’s an almost mystical quality to Wilson’s singing here, to the music and the words. She sings about lifting her eyes to the mountain—the way some of the great Sufi mystics sang of their experiences with the divine. And it can’t be a mere coincidence that Wilson lives in a desert as stark and unforbidding but as spiritually inspiring—yes, El Paso—as that inhabited by the medieval Persians.
“Rise” is particularly stirring. Wilson’s voice here is at its clearest and richest. And why wouldn’t it be? “I know from deep within that I was born to rise . . . in my hands my future lies.” How could she not sing with total clarity and purpose?
It’s on “Destiny,” though, where Wilson truly sings of praise and pursuit. Backed by a beat that’s more early Madonna or Sheena Easton (in her Prince days) than the CD’s more metal-driven tracks, “Destiny” finds Wilson singing of “The path we take creates the shape and form of the key.” And that “destiny’s visage is unique/it’s yours and yours alone.” Among the mystics, they often sang of visages and the awesomeness and wonder of God’s visage. They also sang of The One, just as Wilson does: “The pathway with our final goal: the One that’s always near.”
Wilson gives the impression—lyrically and musically—that she’s after something bigger and deeper than a mere Top 40 finish or a dance-club hit. She certainly has the voice to back it up.
Album Review of Destiny 1/18/13
Aug 2012 Neufutur Review
Ellen M. Wilson – Destiny (CD)
Destiny’s Alone is a track that will immediately bring listeners on board with Ellen M. Wilson. This track needs little more than vocals and a piano to shine; the resulting track uses the interplay of human and instrumental efforts to draw listeners into the fold. Shelter Me possesses a foreboding feel to the track that ties together equal amounts Nightwish and Evanescence with Switchblade Symphony. Each element of Wilson’s band is brilliant here, while the production allows for considerable delineation of each element. This results in a much more clear effort than many we have heard. I Will Try is a track that feels destined for Broadway; the soaring vocals present here are endearing, while the softly-spoken piano matches up perfectly. Hints of Tori Amos can be heard here, while Wilson’s overall effort could easily make it up adult contemporary charts.
It’s Alright is a track that works perfectly, no matter what sorts of music that a listener may dig. This is because the composition is buttery smooth, with the instrumental arrangement providing the perfect highlighting for Wilson’s vocals. Destiny is the perfect closing track for the titular album; I feel it touches just as much as what was captured during Destiny’s runtime as what will be explored by Wilson in the future. A second set of vocals pushes the track to an entirely new plateau, and gives listeners more than enough reason to stick around for the second half of Destiny. Make sure to see Wilson on a set of tour dates in New Mexico and Texas in the next month, and check her website out for more information about the woman and her music.
Top Tracks: Shelter Me, I Will Try