“The Juggler” is the second release from singer/songwriter/pianist Ellen Tipper. It follows her 2007 debut, “Flanagan’s Field.” I liked that record, and I love this one.

Having listened to little else for the past four days, I have absorbed the CD’s 13 songs and offer these remarks: If music genres were found in a supermarket, Tipper wheeled her cart down the pop, country, folk, piano-ballad and Americana aisles, and made an impulse funky blues purchase with the song “Keep It Raw” at the register.

The first element that draws me to Tipper’s sound is her voice. It’s clear and engaging, and brings to mind Shawn Colvin with a little Tracey Thorn from Everything But the Girl occasionally mixed in. Next there’s her piano. It’s confident and not overbearing, reminding me of Carole King’s work on “Tapestry.”

“The Juggler’s” second track, “Caroline,” is Tipper on piano with cello from Mai Bloomfield. It’s a stirring composition. The title track comes next, and it’s solo Tipper playing crystal-cut piano.

“Non La” is another standout track. With piano like low-grade thunder, Tipper sings it out: “Non La rides so slowly, she knows just where she wants to go/ The wheels of her bicycle moving in time, to a life that she knew long ago.”

The stinging, sad ballad “I Don’t Want You to Know” is yet another perfect Tipper moment: “It’s well after midnight, a drink in my hand/ I’m feeling this rock in my head turn to sand/ But I don’t want you to know.” John Kurgan’s subtle bass and Juan Condor’s cello complement Tipper’s piano superbly.

“Silk Purse” has the international flavor lent to Tipper by time spent in Asia and Africa doing public health work: “I’m gazing at the Buddha’s eyes/ I have a silk purse/ She has some money in her hand/ But is it just enough to buy rice?” asks Tipper, along with Geoff Wadsworth’s bansuri flute, Mike Bennett’s drums, Kurgan’s bass and chanting backing vocals from Jessie Holladay and Tipper herself.

There are a lot of songs to be excited about on “The Juggler,” and with 13 to choose from, it’ll be a challenge not to wrap your arms around several of them.

“The Juggler was produced, mixed and recorded by John Kurgan at Birdsong in Mount Desert, and is available for purchase at www.ellentipper.com, iTunes, amazon.com and cdbaby.com

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at: [email protected]

 


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