Angela Easley – Rise | Album Review

Angela Easley – Rise

Class A Records – 2022

6 tracks; 25:51

Singer/pianist Angela Easley worked a four-year residency at Nashville’s Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar which tells us two things: she’s got enough talent and magnetism to regularly draw in an audience and she knows how to pace a set. If there’s any doubt about either of those two statements, her EP Rise proves both ideas to be true.

Easley’s been in music for a while, from church, to local talent competitions, with the vocation eventually moving her from Mississippi to Nashville. Easley’s voice is huge, with a resonance that never feels shrill or insincere. There’s a restraint to her singing that gives her songs—even the more bombastic ones—a nuanced gentleness. It’s all the more impressive on a six-song EP where an artist might feel like she needs to shock-and-awe the listener. Easley has the confidence to rely upon her talent.

For example, “I Can Let Go,” which features The McCrary Sisters, a Nashville gospel quartet, could easily get out of hand with a singer trying to establish her vocal credentials immediately. On some albums this plays out like the advice for a new prisoner to start a fight with the biggest person in the jail yard: to display toughness and send a message. Easley keeps things low-key, allowing her voice to blend with her guests, certainly taking her place in the spotlight, but also showing a lot of control within the sweet, spiritual number.

“Rise,” with its horns and easy groove, has a bit of an adult contemporary vibe, but the song’s melody is pretty. And the chorus, supported by Shelly Fairchild’s lovely background vocals, builds in anthemic way. It’s not rock or blues, but there’s a serious spiritual energy that gives the tune a charming sincerity.

“One More Last Time” is a slow blues, featuring atmospheric saxophone and blues guitar. It’s a familiar-sounding track, even though it’s an Easley original, but it’s a chance to show off her vocals, and her ability to ratchet up the song’s energy before returning it to a simmer, her piano quiet in the mix, but subtly holding the song together.

I’m surprised when an artist opts for such a short album, because a few tracks often aren’t enough time to give a true sense of the artist. Rise is cleverly constructed, and well-executed, so that you finish listening, in about the duration of a sit-com, and walk away with an appreciation of Easley’s vocal and songwriting talents.

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