Elise Testone has hit a home run with her recently released debut album In This Life. From the first note of the title cut, Elise lays claim to the legacy left by powerful rocker Janis Joplin. Testone's "take no prisoners" approach to music grabs you by the collar and refuses to let go until the last note of the last song has drifted off to the universe. This album is consistently great from beginning to end.
What sets Testone apart from the myriad of former American Idol contestants is the fact that her music cannot be pigeonholed into one genre. Yes, she has an amazingly powerful rock voice which comes through loud and clear on the title cut, Still we Try and Never Give me Butterflies, the first three cuts on the album. However, she can just as easily ease into a jazzy R&B tune like the fourth and fifth cuts, Save Me and Can't Get Enough.
From there, she adds in rich orchestral tones and a voice the reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald to give us one of the strongest songs on the album, I Will not Break, the sixth cut.
Testone shows her blues side with the seventh cut, Lucky Day, which made me feel like I was stepping into a 1920's era Chicago speakeasy.
Fear not country music lovers - Testone proves on the eighth cut, What I Need, that even this genre is squarely in her wheelhouse. She has such a natural tone that her genuinely Southern charm oozes out of every note of this song.
Check out the music video for a live performance of the ninth track, I'm Running, that will have you running to purchase this masterpiece. But don't grab just one - this music is so good you have to get some for all your favorite people - they will thank you for your kindness and recognition of truly good music.
Testone closes the album with the smooth soothing sounds of Ease my Mind, which leaves you wanting more and more of this aural goodness.
“The album is cohesive and it flows,” Testone says about the variety of music presented on In This Life. A major reason for that cohesiveness is her decision to use local studios and musicians—including her longtime guitarist Wallace Mullinax—in order to maintain total control over her art.
“When I came to the South I started to spread my wings and learned a lot about myself,” she says. “I grew strong roots here and I just couldn’t walk away from that. The musicians I played with on the album are players that I’ve worked with in various bands throughout the last eight years or longer. If I just picked random musicians, it wouldn’t have felt right.”
Two songs on the album were co-written with Mullinax, one with Aaron Levy, and one with Gerald Gregory. Testone not only produced but was also responsible for most of the musical arrangements. The album was mixed by Testone and sound engineer Joey Cox.
The music on In This Life is the culmination of Testone’s dogged determination and a restless eagerness to grow continually as an artist. For her, that has meant grabbing gigs in sometimes dicey clubs that have required her to set up and break down her own equipment and that sometimes refused to pay her. She started out playing in New Jersey coffee shops and, since relocating to South Carolina, has made a name for herself in venues not only in Charleston but in Myrtle Beach and other local hotbeds of the music scene.
American Idol opened up new doors and allowed Testone the opportunity to take part in a 46-city American Idol Tour that hit most major cities in the United States. Following the release of In This Life, she will finally get the chance to bring her own music to her new fans. “The thing I hear the most now from fans is, ‘We always thought you were good but we had no idea you sounded like this,’” Elise says.
Now, she adds, “I want to get the album out there. I feel there’s a timelessness about the songs and I want people to know about them and I want to share them with people. Life is so short and if we’re not connected to each other and sharing things, then what are you doing here?"