Tanya Dennis: White Sails Blue Skies

Capable American singer offers an eclectic set rich in diverse influences and featuring the harmonica of Hendrik Meurkens


On her website Tanya Dennis states that “over the years” she has dabbled in jazz, samba, Afro Cuban, gypsy, old-time, Irish, electronic, eastern Indian, tango, flamenco, rock, country, funk, fusion and R&B, all of which arguably influenced this, her third album, and none of which even circle the perimeters of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, I donned my “impartial” hat before settling down to listen to the album.

First, then, the voice; it’s certainly pleasant enough, easy on the ear if totally lacking in distinction. Ms. Dennis is an accomplished violinist and, along with castanets, she lists violin as one of the instruments she plays on the album, along with a third, “prayer bowl” – me neither.

Though a lifelong nomad she is temporarily resident in Tennessee in order to care for her invalid father, and eight of the nine musicians accompanying her are locals. Her musical idol is Toots Thielemans and she deliberately included a harmonica on the charts but when she invited Thielemans to guest on the album he declined on the grounds of failing health and so, still wanting a harmonica she flew Hendrik Meurkens from New York.

Dennis owns a 50-foot sailboat and it was whilst cruising the Keys, Bahamas and the Caribbean that she composed seven of the nine songs that comprise this album. They are clearly highly personal and hold a special meaning for Tanya and her husband which makes them difficult to talk about and I can only wish the album well and hope it finds its audience.

Chiarascura; Till You; Slow Reckless Tango; Where You Are; White Sails; The World Can Do Without Us; Indigo; Desolation Sound; All To Myself (44.58)
Dennis (v, vn, prayer bowl, castanets); Jim Ferguson (b); David Martin (nylon-string guitar); Billy Panda, Matt Berry (g); Dann Sherrill, Noah Huntgate (pc); Scott Halgren (p); John Richards (g, elg); Hendrik Meurkens (hca). Treehouse Studio, Ridgetop, Tennessee, unknown date.
Paloma Records 0321