Album Reviews

Miss Tess

Baby, We All Know

Artist:     Miss Tess

Album:     Baby, We All Know

Label:     Rights Records

Release Date:     07/08/2016


Miss Tess grew up in rural Maryland and was raised on the American folk and 1930’s swing that her parents, both musicians, played at home. Later she studied jazz and blues, including a stint at The Berklee College of Music. Tess draws as much from Patsy Cline as from Howlin’ Wolf as well as the pop and punk she listened to growing up in the 1980’s. Today she plays her own brand of Americana with her swinging band The Talkbacks, featuring guitar ace Thomas Bryan Eaton.

Tess recently relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where she recorded her latest release, Baby We All Know. On this disc she brought in producer Dan Knobler (Rodney Crowell, Tift Merritt) as well as top session players who help round out her sound. The album immediately kicks into high gear with the feel good shuffle of “Ride That Train.” Tasty background vocals punctuate this country swinger along with fantastic piano work by John Pahmer. Though Mr.Eaton usually fills the role of lead guitarist, Miss Tess is also a talented player and knows how to coax classic tones from her rare Weymann archtop guitar. On “Little Lola” Mr.Eaton lays down thick, swampy chords reminiscent of CCR’s “Born On The Bayou” thanks to throbbing tremolo. With its catchy chorus and gritty riffs, “I Can’t Help Myself” is a standout track that really rocks. Stinging solos by Mr.Eaton bring to mind B.B.King via Eric Clapton, and Stefan Zeniuk gets down and dirty on baritone sax. “Do You Want My Love” is a pop ballad rich with romantic longing, and “Shotgun Wedding” gets back to raw rockabilly with the question “How’d you like to have a shotgun wedding?” Surely a warning for careless lovers. “Take You Break You Shake You” grooves with a sultry feel that would make Tom Waits proud, while the chiming pedal steel guitars and hillbilly fiddles of “Moonshiner” shows Tess’s deep feel for country music. There are 11 tunes total on this prodigious platter, each song strong. Tess’s knowledge of genre is in full effect and with this solid crew of musicians, we get an overview of what makes American roots music so great.

Miss Tess clearly understands the power of tight structure and the importance of involving the listener via irresistible choruses. One can’t avoid getting caught up in the call and response fun of “Oh lord I can’t help myself!” These are good time party tunes executed with excellence. Though Miss Tess wears her influences on her sleeve, her music sounds fresh, spirited, and relevant. It’s enough to make you wanna get up and dance. Highly recommended.

-Mike Cobb

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