Sena Ehrhardt,
Leave the Light On
(Blind Pig, 2011)

Here's the good news: Sena Ehrhardt has a voice that is likely to get her mugged by an envious angel. Filled with energy that thrusts the song forward and gifted with a vibrato that quivers like the strings on as guitar, Ehrhardt makes you want to listen to whatever she has to say. It is simply a bonus that she -- with co-writer and father Edward Ehrhardt -- writes good songs; the voice itself is enough to make you listen. If things go well, Ehrhardt is going to have a fine career.

By now you're probably sensing that bad news is coming. Well, here it is: when you listen to Leave the Light On, her first album, you start with a sense of anticipation, knowing you're dealing with something special. After a while, though, that sense of specialness dies a little and you find yourself wondering why you aren't quite as engaged as you were when the first cut started. At least, that was my experience with this album; I just wasn't able to love it as much as I wanted to.

Finally, the reason occurred to me: the album is underproduced. On "Lovers Can't Be Friends," for example, a Chicago-style blues ballad, the song cried out for a piano, perhaps, or a blues harp to respond to the call of Ehrhardt's voice. Those other instruments aren't there, though. Like every other song on the album the backup band is guitar, bass and drums. No additional instruments, even though "My Bad," among others cries for a horn section. By using only the trio, we're left with the same type of arrangement for every song: guitar intro, vocal with guitar and bass figures, guitar solo, more vocal, guitar exit.

Ehrhardt is too good to be underserved like this. She deserves more. Here's hoping on her next album she gets it.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

25 February 2012

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