Fueled by booze and broken promises, the narrator in Michelle Attardi’s first single “Phoenix” unapologetically sets her memories of a former beau aflame. “Kerosene never smelled so good,” she purrs before lighting up the fragments of her past. However, the act extends beyond destruction and revenge. It signals a rebirth, the rise of a weary, yet wiser woman baptized in fire who manages to emerge whole from the wreckage.
Emotionally scarred heroines populate Attardi’s self-titled debut EP, a bracing country-rock cocktail that both burns and soothes. Too often in modern country songs women appear as stereotypes instead of fleshed out individuals. Attardi, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who graduated from Berklee College of Music, offers a portrayal of women who are tough yet tender, and infinitely more interesting than righteous saints or raging spitfires. The New Jersey native is a powerful vocalist, but she can also pull back from belting to reveal both the backbone and insecurities of the self-aware characters she voices.
Accordingly, producer Matthew Gordon adeptly balances aggressive up-tempo numbers (pairing wailing guitars and wary observations) with more intimate instrumentation on the EP’s glistening ballads. Thankfully, the transition between the two styles is never jarring. Each song could probably stand alone; together they offer up a fuller picture of Attardi as an artist.
Part of Attardi’s goal with her new EP is to promote not only herself, but fellow songwriters. Co-written by Attardi, Molly Brown, and Joe Fox, “Phoenix” kicks off the five-song set with a roar. It serves as a prime introduction to Attardi’s sound since she must capture both the fragility that results from a relationship falling apart and the spirit required to start anew. “Phoenix” showcases her enviable range, revealing a charismatic talent.
While “Phoenix” offers a strong first impression, Attardi’s vocal delivery is most potent during her softer moments. Singer-songwriter Nicky Rood’s lush ballad “I Don’t Know How” lets Attardi demonstrate disarming vulnerability. Facing an uncertain future, she asserts her quiet determination to make a fading relationship work: “I don’t know what you needed me to do/I would have done it if you asked me to/We’ve come too far to give up,” she laments in the bridge. Country weeper “More Than Mountains”, which details the complications of a long-distance love, is equally beautiful.
There’s no denying that Attardi can flat out sing. Although her brand of country is not traditional, her voice should be a welcome addition to a genre she clearly respects. One of the great pleasures of learning about emerging talents is seeing their development; Attardi’s debut hints her journey will be well worth following.