ellen cherry – Please Don’t Sell The Piano EP
On all her previous records, Baltimore-based singer/songwriter ellen cherry’s principal instrument is guitar. And as the title implies, her new EP, Please Don’t Sell The Piano, represents a break from that tradition, as she explores black and white keys for the duration of the six songs. Having long since found a distinctive songwriting voice on her primary instrument, ellen cherry is taking a risk here, stepping out of her comfort zone.
The gambit at the heart of Please Don’t Sell The Piano is an unqualified success on at least one front: it sounds great. Country singer/songwriter Caleb Stine produced the EP, and his simple, direct way of recording ellen cherry’s performances, playing the piano and singing simultaneously, captures both an undeniable sense of intimacy and a comfortably spacious room tone. On two tracks, Stine overdubs string arrangements that only enrich that sound, particularly on the colorfully textured “Pickett’s Charge.”
Something is lost, however. In the past, ellen cherry has often seemed brimming with personality and humor, especially in her live performances. Whether she is adopting a deliberately different persona for Please Don’t Sell The Piano or simply hasn’t learned to loosen up as much behind a piano as behind a guitar, that playfulness and charisma is missed. It does return in flashes, particularly in the relatively upbeat title track. But then, at only six songs, the slower, more somber mood of the EP isn’t given time to wear out its welcome. And after all, she wouldn’t be the first singer/songwriter to vary her music widely when playing guitar but then reserve the piano primarily for ballads.