“In This Life” By Elise Testone
Not to discredit or belittle Testone’s experience on “American Idol,” but it would seem she’s a stronger artist for her defiance to the “Idol” system than for her adherence to it. This Coastal Carolina University alum seems to have made it to sixth place on the eleventh season of the reality show by choosing songs to perform that she was passionate about, and then singing the shit out of them. This confidence in her identity as an artist shines on her debut album, “In This Life,” released Feb. 11 on Testone’s independent label Red Tambo Records.
Testone may be from New Jersey originally, but her soulful raspy voice matches the swamps and Spanish moss of South Carolina. Her tone matches the Charleston cityscape. All 10 songs on this disc were written or co-written by the multi-instrumental Testone. The disc was produced by Testone, recorded in a Charleston studio, using Charleston musicians. She even found room to include her “American Idol” co-contestant Erika Van Pelt on backing vocals for a few songs. The results are an album full of rootsy rock, ballsy blues, jazzy soul and thigh-slapping funk.
There are times when she does a successful job of blending an R&B croon into an Americana vibe – “Still We Try,” “Save Me” and “Ease My Mind.” There are other times when she drops down into gutsy, low growl, like on the title track. She belts it out and soars on “I’m Runnin’.” She finds the groove to funk it up on “Save Me” and “Lucky Day.” The production feels organic and tasteful. Her voice never gets lost or dulled in the mix. No, her vocals are front and center and propulsive.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge