Natalie Estes - 20/20 Vision (2017)

Written by Lydia Stewart, posted by blog admin

Nashville native Natalie Estes’ love for artistic self-expression began early. Her journey began as a ballet dancer with Nashville Ballet and didn’t begin singing until her high school tenure after learning Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love”. Her blossoming love affair with music swept her into another part of her journey that she likely never saw coming, but the EP 20/20 Vision testifies to the grace and confidence with which she’s navigated this new life trajectory. Her talents are substantial. Estes has the ability to inhabit both the pop song landscape and more substantive musical endeavors without sounding flat-footed or out of place in either one. It naturally helps her tremendously that she is working with some of the best writers that Music City and Los Angeles alike have to offer like David Smart and Joe Ingoldsby, among others. She began recording this EP in 2016 under the production auspices of David Huff at the Los Angeles House of Blues and has enlisted some heavy hitting musical collaborators to help make it pay off. The result is one of the finest collections this year of any length.

“Until I Do” makes shrewd use of dynamics in its modulation from quiet, contemplative verses into forceful crescendos, but the real force moving this song is, naturally, Estes’ voice. She makes an impressive partner duetting with the understated percussion, the thunderous work that comes with each crescendo and the colorful piano and organ lines that further fill out the song. The songwriting talent for taking a well worn phrase from every day speech and investing it with new found meaning is rare, but you’ll find it in spades on this EP release. “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire” is a slinky, full throated masterpiece that will turn a few heads. The seemingly effortless swing of the drums, the surprising addition of strings to fine effect, and the warm keyboard sheen give Estes an impressive musical platform to deliver one of the EP’s best vocals – singing that, mind you, sounds like a veteran performer rather than a promising young talent.

“Reminds Me of You” is a moody, mid-tempo pop number that takes its time developing and gives Estes another ideal showcase for showing off her vocal chops. There’s a lot of blue in her voice and she knows how to make great use of that aspect of her sound. The EP’s conclusion comes with the bold, brassy number “Bad Game”. She amps up the tempo a little here and it has a sound that might remind older listeners of Steve Winwood’s fare from the late 80’s-early 90’s. There’s a lot of attitude here, but it’s never presented cheaply. This is a tune anyone can get into and, much like the rest of 20/20 Vision, never cheats the listener. Natalie Estes will garner a lot of well deserved attention for this release and it serves as a fine building block for where her career will go from here.