When you hear some artists, you just know that they were made for singing. Tanya Gallagher has a PhD in Forestry, but when you hear her voice on the new EP One Hand on My Heart (Head Above Water), you know that she is one of those artists that was born to sing.
The first thing you hear on “Dark Side” is some whistling that sounds like it belongs in a spaghetti western. However, instead of going off into some dark, twangy melody, you hear a soulful pop song with vocals similar to Fiona Apple. The melody and the mood of the song seems like what might happen if Lauryn Hill played an acoustic guitar.
This album was written and recorded after Gallagher broke up with a longtime boyfriend. It’s easy to tell when you pay attention to the lyrics. It’s particularly evident in “A Little Effort” when she sings in a breathy voice, “We tried to be lovers, but we couldn’t be more than friends.” The tempo and the tone in this one lean a little more toward country while the keyboards add some soul to the mix. You can hear the ache even stronger in “Barren Land” when she sings, “We’re surviving but we don’t know how. This ain’t living, it’s just lying down.
There is a feeling of alienation in the poetic “Dolphin in the Snow”. As she picks a mellow guitar part, she sings about moving from the beaches to the mountains where the north winds blow. She admits that it doesn’t feel like home, and she ices the whole thing by saying she doesn’t belong, like a dolphin in the snow. It’s hard not to be impressed by the poetry and imagery in the story of this song.
If you like goodbye songs, you will love the closer “Magic”. The spare instrumentation makes it even more powerful when she sings, “If you ain’t planning for forever, just say goodbye.” There really isn’t much to say about this song except that it is so beautiful it will break your heart.
Gallagher shows real talent as a songwriter and storyteller. She creates mood that is evocative without being overwhelming. She sings in such a sweet and mellow voice that you can’t help but be hooked. One Hand on My Heart is available everywhere on August 6. Order your copy here.