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CD REVIEW: Ellen Tipper - Flanagan's Field
By Chip Withrow - 01/02/2008 - 05:00 PM EST

Artist: Ellen Tipper
Album: Flanagan's Field
Genre: Folk/Pop
Sounds Like: Carole King, Sarah MacLachlan
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Crayons, Fatima, Not This Time
CD Review: With Flanagan’s Field, Maine-based pianist/singer/songwriter Ellen Tipper and her band have crafted a shimmering folk/pop hybrid. In her keyboard style, Tipper favors single notes over big chords, and this less-is-more philosophy makes the whole album sparkle. On songs like “Up and Down,” the simple trio of instruments allows Tipper’s voice to dance all over this bittersweet tale, especially on the memorable chorus.

“Strange Way” is the album’s irresistible opener. Tipper’s piano melody is catchy, drummer Alex Owre swings a nice groove, and Tipper’s vocal is fun and hopeful. “All In a Day” is just as hooky, Beatlesque and jazzy at the same time, a clever tale of making the best of daily pitfalls punctuated by Paul Story’s guitar.

Sandwiched in between these two bouncy numbers is the soulful, plaintive “Save Me.” Tipper closes the set with another soul stirrer, “Not This Time.” I would love to hear her do more numbers in this vein, although I’m also glad she included wisful cuts like the title track.

As a parent of a five-year-old, I like music that addresses the kind of life I live. “Crayons” is a jazzy, bluesy number about the wonders discovered by coloring with a child. Tipper languidly tosses out lines like “If the sky were pink and the earth were yellow/Do you think we would be more mellow?”

The most striking song on Flanagan’s Field is the hypnotic “Fatima.” Ezra Rugg’s bass and Owre’s drums anchor this tune, loping into and out of a pleasingly off-kilter chorus. Lyrics such as “She carried the woodpile high on her head” and “I sat in my mud hut swatting mosquitoes” are  evocative and exotic.

Flanagan’s Field is clean, crisp, and elegant, On this winning effort, Tipper sounds at times wise like Carole King and at others earnest like Sarah MacLachlan. Yet Ellen Tipper comfortably and confidently molds these influences into a style of her own. 

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