Wilson has a voice that’s smoother and more natural than most of the pop stars out there—from Shannon and Tiffany of the 80s to Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus of today. In this electronica-tinged tune, she sings about something very close to home: the separation of military couples when one of them is shipped out on deployment. For Wilson and her husband (as with so many other military couples), it’s love that keeps them strong. After opening with an airy synthesizer that straddles the edge of techno, Wilson’s plaintive voice comes in, singing about the loneliness that sets in almost immediately after her husband has flown out. Rooted in the slow-dance grooves of the mid-80s, “Feel Your Love” is reminiscent of Madonna’s 1985’s hit, “Crazy for You” (from the movie Vision Quest). Only Wilson’s more heartfelt and sincere and she and her producer T.L. Brown downplay the overpolish and the ubertweaking of every element. At times, Wilson also sings more like a Scandinavian club singer (a la Abba’s Frida Lyngstad or the early Lykke Li) than an American: clipped, abrupt, clamping down on that last consonant especially, which only makes her all the more unique and endearing and interesting. She’s her own singer. She’s no Gaga or Perry. And the same with the song, which moves from the 80s to the 70s to the 90s to now—as when Brown comes in like Snoop Dogg/Lion for the briefest of raps. And while the video hints at the emotional challenges faced by military couples having to endure these too-frequent separations, it’s the music, and Wilson’s voice overall, that really hits home. 

--- Devon Jackson

Joel McDowell Review of Destiny

Several years ago I was lucky enough to watch Ben Folds play with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. During the concert he explained how much he loved playing with orchestras because while making an album he felt like he was constantly dumbing down his ideas in order to make the album sound consistent with the live sound and not to go too crazy in the studio.  After hearing how fantastic he sounded with a full orchestra I was disappointed in listening to his albums because I knew it wasn’t the full potential of what he had in mind when writing the songs. In Ellen M. Wilson’s November 2012 release “Destiny,” Wilson doesn’t back down from the daunting task of incorporating numerous elements into her work and it pays off.   

After a couple of listens to the album I was not surprised to learn that Wilson was a rocker in her teen years and then studied classical music through college. With a background of rock and classical music and a fearless approach to writing Ellen Wilson has created an album that is all her own. There are elements of prog rock, rock opera, and folk music that are tied together by Wilson’s strong vocal performance and a lyrical theme. While there are religious themes lyrically, I would probably consider the album to be more of a spiritual album as it deals with finding peace and happiness in the world. There is a heavy use of synth and keys throughout the album that really give it that rock opera feel. Harmonies are used consistently in the album but not to a point that they are overdone. To combat overuse there are male vocals used in the harmonies sparingly that keeps the songs (and album as a whole) fresh.

My favorite track of the album would have to be “For You.” The song opens up with a minute and a half of synth, leading into some crunchy guitar work, and then percussion (including the ringing of bells) setting an intense, ethereal tone for the song. This song is heavily prog rock influenced and would stand up against The Transiberian Orchestra’s work. The song speaks to our inability to understand all of the mysteries that go on around us to make the world the way it is. Wilson has chosen such a hard hitting eerie sound for this song that matches its subject matter perfectly.

Other stand out tracks for me include “Alone” and “Shelter Me.”  These two songs are 2nd and 3rd on the album and really start the rock opera sound that I love so much. To compare this album to what’s out currently is tough to do but due to the vocal work in these two songs there will be comparisons to Wilson and Amy Lee of Evanescence. “Alone” is a much slower pace than the aforementioned “For You” but is intense in its own right as Wilson sings about moving out of a tribulation while staying positive and never feeling alone in the process. “Shelter Me” builds on the pace of “Alone” and really shows off Wilson’s vocal talent. It becomes evident how much power she has in her pipes as her voice soars two minutes into this song as the album comes to a crescendo it has been building since the first note of the opening track.

Wilson’s “Destiny” is full of little surprises and rewards. “Rise” concludes with some enormous percussion capping off the growing energy of the song. “Its Alright” has a jazzy feel to it that isn’t really given on other tracks. “Someday” has a breakdown that builds into a smooth guitar solo. The biggest reward to the album however has to be the vocal performance by Wilson whose voice sounds just as good in the valleys of songs as in the peaks.

“Destiny” is masterfully done. The uplifting, heartfelt album focuses on the journey we all are going through in this world. Wilson is providing reassurance not only of her ability to end up where she is supposed to in this world but that the world will end up as it should as well. Wilson is confident that she will find her destiny but it’s apparent she has found her voice in “Destiny”.

Buy this album if you like: Epica,  Evanescence, The Carpenters, Prog Rock and Rock Opera.

--Joel McDowell, handsoffpromotions.com

Devon Jackson Review of Destiny 2/22/13

 Ellen M. Wilson


          The basic goal and the unerring quest of the Sufi poets—particularly of the Sufi mystics of the medieval era (Rumi, Hafiz, Omar Khayyam)—was to become one with their beloved. The beloved often being not merely an earthly, carnal version of someone they merely wanted to hook up with, but The Beloved: God, the Supreme Being, the Universe. These Sufi mystics aspired toward a Divine Love. They were seekers of Truth. And they wrote and sang about that love and those aspirations in a way that was sometimes direct, sometimes not, but always heartfelt and spiritual. The same can be said of Ellen M. Wilson. She sings sometimes directly, sometimes not, but always heartfelt and with spirituality and passion. And without being corny, obvious, or preachy. And the music backing her is neither maudlin nor treacly and thankfully never veers into the self-consciousness of a Lilith Fair princess.

          Wilson bears no small resemblance to sinewy operatic rock bands like Evanescence and Flyleaf, which mix in tough crunchy guitars and soaring synthesizers beneath and sometimes over the ethereal and sometimes dreamy vocals of their frontwomen (Amy Lee of Evanescence and Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf). Wisely, or maybe fatefully, she chose as her producer T.L. Brown, a songwriter whose musical sensibilities seem to mesh perfectly with the potential and the range of Wilson’s formidable and sublime voice.

These songs—where Sufi meets soul but almost on every cut armed with either an awesome guitar riff or a soaring synthesizer—range from hard rock to country rock to dance club. “Someday” moves from a familiar country rock AM-station number to one where Wilson’s voice carries it to a higher level. Similarly, “Alone” recalls the piano work of Styx and the vocals of Pat Benatar, but the musicians, all from El Paso and all doing great work here—from guitarist Armin Harrison, bassist Dave Hamilton, drummers Danny Sullivan and Justin Conrow—and Brown’s piano-playing and arrangements complement Wilson’s emotionally poignant vocals in a way that’s not only supportive but true to the uplift of the lyrics.

“Shelter Me” and “For You” also kick ass—musically and vocally. They pack an emotional wallop. The guitars are big and gritty, the synthesizers equally large and lofty, and the arrangement always plays off the subtle spiritual mood that’s always there if you want it, but not overly present that it’s in your face.

On “I Will Try,” Wilson works her voice in a way that’s texturally distinct from her other songs. She somehow manages to sing—“I will try/learning along the way . . . I won’t give up/I will be whole someday,” lyrics about change and growth, or trying to change and grow—in a voice that’s younger, less mature, striving. Striving while retaining the strength underneath that’s identifiably Wilson’s.

“It’s Alright” opens with more of an easy-listening vibe. But it’s Culture Club laziness is deceptive, giving way halfway through to a more interesting tempo, a lift in spirit. Again, there’s an almost mystical quality to Wilson’s singing here, to the music and the words. She sings about lifting her eyes to the mountain—the way some of the great Sufi mystics sang of their experiences with the divine. And it can’t be a mere coincidence that Wilson lives in a desert as stark and unforbidding but as spiritually inspiring—yes, El Paso—as that inhabited by the medieval Persians.

“Rise” is particularly stirring. Wilson’s voice here is at its clearest and richest. And why wouldn’t it be? “I know from deep within that I was born to rise . . . in my hands my future lies.” How could she not sing with total clarity and purpose?

It’s on “Destiny,” though, where Wilson truly sings of praise and pursuit. Backed by a beat that’s more early Madonna or Sheena Easton (in her Prince days) than the CD’s more metal-driven tracks, “Destiny” finds Wilson singing of “The path we take creates the shape and form of the key.” And that “destiny’s visage is unique/it’s yours and yours alone.” Among the mystics, they often sang of visages and the awesomeness and wonder of God’s visage. They also sang of The One, just as Wilson does: “The pathway with our final goal: the One that’s always near.”

Wilson gives the impression—lyrically and musically—that she’s after something bigger and deeper than a mere Top 40 finish or a dance-club hit. She certainly has the voice to back it up. 

-Devon Jackson

Album Review of Destiny 1/18/13

Ellen M. Wilson's album, "Destiny," combines thoughtful songwriting with stellar production.
Ellen M. Wilson's music is a mixture of pop, easy listening, and piano rock. Her album, "Destiny," combines thoughtful songwriting with stellar production. "Someday" is a piano rock song with positive lyrics, a nice full arrangement, and a ripping guitar solo. "Alone" has a longing melody and piano accompaniment with heart-wrenching lyrics about loneliness. "Shelter Me" is very dramatic. It reminds one of a song in a rock opera. In fact, Ellen's voice would be well-suited for a rock opera. Ellen shows off her vocal range during a musical breakdown on "I Will Try," a tune with self-affirming lyrics about not giving up. "For You" is an emotional piece with an interesting choral introduction and a driving guitar riff. There is some excellent technical guitar work on "Rise," and the title track "Destiny" has a wonderful pop beat. Good first effort!

Joel McDowell

Aug 2012 Neufutur Review

 Latest Destiny Album Review at Neufutur.com 

Ellen M. Wilson – Destiny (CD)

Destiny’s Alone is a track that will immediately bring listeners on board with Ellen M. Wilson. This track needs little more than vocals and a piano to shine; the resulting track uses the interplay of human and instrumental efforts to draw listeners into the fold. Shelter Me possesses a foreboding feel to the track that ties together equal amounts Nightwish and Evanescence with Switchblade Symphony. Each element of Wilson’s band is brilliant here, while the production allows for considerable delineation of each element. This results in a much more clear effort than many we have heard. I Will Try is a track that feels destined for Broadway; the soaring vocals present here are endearing, while the softly-spoken piano matches up perfectly. Hints of Tori Amos can be heard here, while Wilson’s overall effort could easily make it up adult contemporary charts.

It’s Alright is a track that works perfectly, no matter what sorts of music that a listener may dig. This is because the composition is buttery smooth, with the instrumental arrangement providing the perfect highlighting for Wilson’s vocals.  Destiny is the perfect closing track for the titular album; I feel it touches just as much as what was captured during Destiny’s runtime as what will be explored by Wilson in the future. A second set of vocals pushes the track to an entirely new plateau, and gives listeners more than enough reason to stick around for the second half of Destiny. Make sure to see Wilson on a set of tour dates in New Mexico and Texas in the next month, and check her website out for more information about the woman and her music.

Top Tracks: Shelter Me, I Will Try

Rating: 8.6/10


For You review