Eartha: Ink Dry Blue
American artist Eartha won the Grammy for “Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album” with her debut album 'Sidebars' in 2002. Since then she has produced a roster of other musicians throughout Los Angeles and now is back with her fourth recording project, ‘Ink Dry Blue’, on which she plays all instruments, co-produces and co-writes with Glaurys Ariass and Helsa Ariass.
The result is a hefty sixteen-pack tableau of attitude, balladry, existential angst and almost Zappa-esque instrumental cacaphony. Eartha’s voice is husky contralto, recalling a younger Gladys Knight, in general, yet this same voice evolves randomly, throughout the album, into an eerie menacing, cutting-edge confessional, especially in the opener, ‘Hearts of Stone.’ Further down the line, you realize it’s impossible to pigeon-hole her style.
‘”Break up hearts of stone/Chip away at the pieces,” she sings, with hurt and conviction. The introspective ‘What How Why When’ then casts a psychedelic prog rock spell, vis a vis Jimi Hendrix, over us. Going still deeper, Eartha pays tribute to “all our fallen soldiers” in the stirring ‘One by One.’
“You make the choice to be the one/To hold your brother in your arms,” she sings. Though the preceding songs were a bit weighed down by backing vocals, Eartha’s message rings out here with precision and clarity.
‘Color of the Wind’ has a more commercial feel and strikes a personal tone.
“To many eyes, I may seem strange/To more or less, I am taboo” is how the song begins, but minutes later she concludes, “Make me the color of the wind/Where eyes won’t see my many flaws again.” The outsider takes the world into her own definitive hands.
‘Already There’ is soul-infused, a hybrid of new-age lyrics set against Gospel modulations.
Though, Eartha and her colleagues can write serious ballads well, I really enjoy and prefer the playful quirkiness of songs like ‘Bad Frequency’ where the multi-instrumentalist shows off her unique talents.
“I miss your signs/You talk to me in double tongue,” she rips. The bass rules; those low tones cascade into Metal confusion and create a strong, straight-ahead groove.
‘Reaching’ is the quintessential ray of hope, and in ‘What About We’ the singer captures a universal sense of bewilderment; This one, with its unbridled innocence, “I try to contemplate all of the reasons/The world is just falling to pieces,” bears the steadfast, lyrical timber that a Stevie Wonder of an earlier era often contemplated.
‘Pursuit’ allows more space for Eartha’s avalanche of electric fusion. It empowers this tune; a hellish tension smartly envelops the voice.
‘My Face Again’ is another ballad. “My life is still in session and I haven’t time to write,” she streams, but a few vocal rises could have added more depth to a good theme.
‘Pacts we Make’ conveys more of that signature tension. That husky voice reinstates a convincing urgency; “These are the pacts we made/We promised to let them be.”
‘The Whole World’ revolves around some ambient sounds and a piercing guitar line that shadows Eartha’s prophecies. The title song, ‘Ink Dry Blue’ is a bouncing, inspirational ode to friendship. “Put a word on paper/Let the ink dry blue,” she begins. Given time, that suggestion lends itself to further possibilities; “Put it in a bottle/Throw it in the sea/I’ll wait by the water/It’ll get to me.”
‘I Wanna Come Home’ is another sure-fire ballad, but ‘Betrayer’ resounds once more with a lovely eerie, dark and other-worldly vigilance. Eartha’s voice reveals a more mature desperation; the blood-curdling rebelliousness of the outsider. This is one of the brightest stars in the collection.
The final song, ‘Boardwalk’ is poetic and allows for an unexpected outro. Eartha pleasantly waits this tune out; she enjoys the buoyant ride. “Lay a wooden path beneath the arches of my feet/Let it run above the raging waters of the sea.”
Eartha is a sensitive and strong musician and her current tour de force ‘Ink Dry Blue’ definitely whets the appetite. It will be fascinating to see this ambitious artist's next project take shape.