REVIEW: Miss Tess Showcases Versatile Vocals on “The Moon Is an Ashtray”


When you listen to some artists, you realize that they can easily fit in a variety of genres. You don’t have to listen to a lot of The Moon Is an Ashtray to realize that Miss Tess is one of those artists. With her voice, she would be just as at home in a jazz club as a dark honky tonk filled with dancing people.

You hear the seductive quality of her voice immediately in the mellow lead track “The Truth Is”. While the melody gets you swaying, the marvel of this song is that she can even make it sound sweet when she sings, “The truth is that I really do not love you.”

“True Flood” is a duet featuring Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive, and it practically oozes soul. It would be soulful enough if it were an a capella song with these two chanteuses. However, when you add co-production by Andrija Tokic, the clean guitar sounds by Miss Tess and Thomas Bryan Eaton, the rhythm of Dennis Crouch (bass), and Jimmy Lester (drums), and the piano of John Pahmer that would fit in a Ray Charles song, what you get is a modern soul hit. The only thing missing is the Memphis-style horns.

Miss Tess takes an effortless turn toward country sounds in a number of songs. “Gamblin’ Man” is a country soul tune whose tempo – propelled by Dave Racine on drums and Jack Lawrence on bass – could easily get couples two-stepping on a dance floor. “Take It Easy” is a rockabilly bop with a guitar that sounds like it could be on a Dwight Yoakam record and a piano part that sounds inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis. That’s not all. Miss Tess even channels her inner Patsy Montana and taps into a bit of yodeling on “I Wanna Be a Cowboy”.

The title track is one that shows she could just as easily perform in a jazz club. In fact the video for this song is the perfect visual accompaniment for the sound of this song. The vocals aren’t the only captivating thing about the song, however. Eaton’s pedal steel lends something of an exotica feel that is quite a bit different than the rest of the album.

This album is a tremendous display of Miss Tess’s range as an artist. She bounces from soul to country to jazzy vocals with no difficulty. In fact, she makes it seem effortless. You can’t help but be entranced by her tone, and you realize that the best way to describe her vocals is mellifluous. The Moon Is an Ashtray will be available everywhere on February 7. Order your copy here.

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