CD Reviews 27 Nov 2012



(2012 Self-Release)



CD Release Party: Friday, January 11, 2013 @ the Inferno w/ Sexy Ester & the Pretty Mama Sisters

Buy and sample here:


Vanessa Tortolano first came to Madison’s attention as a member of Subvocal, appearing on the band’s 2004 debut Nikki’s Room. On that record she primarily sang backup vocals but one of the outstanding cuts on that record was “Ghosts,” on which Tortolano sang the lead; a haunting and beautiful performance. It’s somewhat of a surprise that it would be nine years before she released a recording of her own given that she has a silky smooth, seductive voice peppered with a soulful delivery; strong enough to rival any of her influences (think the imagination of Tori Amos crossed with the strength of character and independence of Ani DiFranco). She also plays guitar and is, obviously, a songwriter.

Tortolano also has other ambitions, co-hosting the Alchemy‘s Open Mic Variety Show and Tell every second Wednesday of the month as well as being the co-owner and Operator of NessAlla Kombucha. She’s also the mother of two children.

Inclination was rcorded at DNA with Brian Daly at the helm. It’s nine tracks (plus one hidden track) come in at around 40 minutes and employ the sparest instrumentation, which leaves the spotlight appropriately focused on the vocals. She imbues a sense of playfulness into much of the album and the subject matter is by turns wistful and political.

“Little Things” gets the album off to a strong start as the simple plucked acoustic guitar is adorned with a gorgeous touch of bowed standup bass by Lucas Koehler. Andrew Rohn’s harpsichord adds a wonderful touch. As echoed in the lyrics to “Little Things,” the charm of Inclination is found in the small details. A close listen reveals cleverly placed background vocals provided by Kelly Underwood and Julia McConahay that blend magnificently (McConahay also plays violin on two tracks). Daly’s use of restrained but effective sonic embellishments is impressive.

Both “Warrior,”and “Blessed” are solo outings for the most part with McConahay’s violin gracing the former. Both are beautiful, approaching the majesty of “Ghosts” with plenty of breathing space and lush, open guitar arpeggios. “Sky” is in a similar vein with violin and bowed bass adding weight and subsatnce. Tortolano is most succesful in this idiom although she has a way of injecting spirituality into the more direct social commentary of songs like “Occupy” and “Nothin’ to Bitch About.” The title track utilizes the one loan drum on the whole album – a single snare. The track is the summation of the album, all the elements fusing successfully to create a compelling listening experience. Tortolano shows off her ability to go powerhouse on the hidden track, “Butt Enough” a pretty funny reggae sendup.

Another strong release from another strong female presence in Madison music.

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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