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Music Review: Elizabeth Willis – Little Blackbird

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It’s hard to imagine the kind of childhood Elizabeth Willis had. A prodigy from the age of 5 and classically trained on violin and piano, she apparently had no “normal” life and says herself that she “didn’t have a weekend off” once she began that training. But then, recently, she gave up all the classical training and decided to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Her first CD, Little Blackbird, has just been released and is already receiving good notices.

Interestingly, though, when I first put it on for a listen, my mother and husband happened to be in the house, and after the first couple of songs, they politely asked me to turn it off. And I admit, Willis takes some getting used to. Hers is not, to my mind, the kind of music that captivates immediately. Although she is masterful at composition, her music falls into no easy category; you need to sit down and listen to it. More than once.

With that said, I found myself a fan.

“Overture,” the lush instrumental that opens the album is terrific and sets the tone for the whole CD and I especially loved “One,” “In Love,” “Remember You,” and “Stars.”

Willis plays all the piano and violin music on the CD with additional cello work provided by another musician, and all the vocals, music, and lyrics are hers. She is astonishingly gifted at composing music and while her lyrics are young they catch you. Her voice is very raw, something my teenage daughter, an aspiring singer/songwriter herself, noticed when I gave her the CD to listen to. But my daughter, as opposed to the other members of my family who listened, liked Willis a lot, and was especially taken by the raw quality of her voice, even going so far as to have me listen to another singer/songwriter whom she thought Willis resembled.

Personally I think Willis would do well to have a fabulous singer record her songs (even she herself was reluctant to sing her own music) but there is something compelling about her own young, untried presence, and there is no denying that. Willis is a young woman of amazing talent and ability.

We will hear more from her. Already, according to press material, rappers are interested in her music for remix. That’s interesting, but I’d like to see some great young voices record her fascinating mix of violin and piano music and I’m curious to see where Willis goes with her lyrics as she matures.

Her CD is not available on amazon but can be bought at Merch Direct.

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