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Hold Onto This
Artist:  Alyse Black  
Label: Independent  
Time:  12 Tracks / 46:43
Hold Onto This, Alyse Black’s second album, may not be absolute bli-i-iss, but it is overall pretty strong. Alyse has a sensual, jazzy, whispery quality to her voice similar to artists like Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, and Karin Berquist. Words like “sultry”and “siren” come hopelessly to mind (while you keep wishing you had some better ones).
Her singing is unquestionably the centerpiece. A lot of “oohing,” “ahhing,” and sighing.  Alyse likes to take a single syllable and turn it into several. I believe I counted twelve syllables when she sings the word “me” at one point in the title song. It’s a style thing that either appeals to you or doesn’t. You could be annoyed by it or surrender to it. What you can’t do is say that she’s not talented: because she is--certainly and undeniably.
The compositions here are varied in style, skating nicely along a rocky-jazzy-poppy edge. The songs tend to be about relationships, love, longing, and loss. Her lyrics are sometimes poetic and insightful. 
I particularly like “B-17 Bomber Girl.” In this song, Alyse brings attention to the simple fact that the world prefers attractive entertainers and that’s not always easy to cope with even if you have long red hair and a lovely face (like Alyse). She sings, “Could you love what you see? I’m the B-17 bomber girl. Spent every day of 16 hiding my hips from the world.” In a world that worships physical beauty, even beautiful people focus on what they perceive as their flaws. Another line in this song (I assume to be spoken by a male admirer) is, “I see nothing but you, the music is lost on me.” Another dilemma for the very attractive: being noticed only for their looks.
Hold Onto This is a good album and I would look for Alyse to only improve with time. The ingredients are there. She’s clearly passionate and gifted and she’s surrounded herself with solid players. A few sprinkles of maturity may just see to it that she becomes extraordinary. Watch for it.
Sample some of Alyse’s stuff on her MySpace page:

Jim Wormington

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