Sena Ehrhardt,
All In
(Blind Pig, 2013)

When I reviewed Sena Ehrhardt's first album in these pages (25 February 2011), I lavished high praise on her voice and her songwriting but claimed that her debut disc was shortchanged in the production department. Before going on, I have to point out that I was in a minority on that one; the record won her several national awards and brought a lot of attention -- all of which she very richly deserves.

Now, Ehrhardt is back with a sophomore release and a new producer, Jim Gaines, who has more Grammies than I have t-shirts. And it's highly likely that this is the album that will put her over the top and make her a national figure. She has a voice that can caress a syllable or kick its ass; she can make you want to fall in love, get up and dance or steal a car. Let's just say that whatever she wants to accomplish vocally, she can.

Her own writing (co-written with her father and lead guitarist, Edward Ehrhardt) is fine. Her lyrics are about the problems of love -- finding it, keeping it, deserving it, losing it -- and she makes it all sound new and fresh, with sharp imagery among the classic blues lines. In "Cold, Cold Feeling," she describes the emotion like ice around her heart, a familiar image, but then her turnaround line is "it makes me want to quit somebody every time it starts." She lets the familiar lead you to the unique. It's good writing.

There is still, for my taste, too much reliance on the guitar, bass and drum combo backing, although they've added a rhythm guitar. This time, I wouldn't call it a problem with the record. Obviously, this is the backing she's comfortable with, and this time out it's used to push her voice to the forefront, where it should be.

If the first album won a bunch of awards, then this year, awards season is going to be even more fun for Sena Ehrhardt.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

8 June 2013

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