Artist Spotlight

Review: Tess Henley, “Wonderland”

No Comments 8 February 2015

Review: Tess Henley, “Wonderland”

“Working with a producer of Was’ caliber has only served to polish an already shining jewel in the neo soul music scene. Wonderland is such a breath of fresh air, and finds Henley maturing and expressing herself in all her unique glory.”

Artist: Tess Henley

EP: Wonderland

Genre: Soul / R&B

RIYL: Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Joss Stone

Tess Henley Wonderland

Since her 2013 release of High Heels & Sneakers, I’ve been waiting for another recording from Seattle indie neo-soul artist Tess Henley. I’ve watched with great interest as she made connections that every artists dreams about, and greatly anticipated hearing the result of her journey over the past year. Last March, Tess caught the ear of multi-Grammy winning producer, Don Was (Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Bonnie Raitt), who selected Henley from over 10,000 performers as part of Guitar Center’s Singer-Songwriter Artist Discovery Program. The result of that meeting is the gorgeous Wonderland EP.

Her last effort was fresh, sassy and showed off her knack for writing to her strengths: that voice and an effortless musicality that shines. With Wonderland, Tess has taken the experience of working with a seasoned producer and internalized it; this set of four songs has such a gloriously classic soul sound infused with Tess’ personality. Nothing is over-the-top, and every note and lilt of the vocals seem to just hang in the air in perfect balance and in perfect time. This is exemplified with the opening title track, a sweet slow and sexy track that feels just like being in the honeymoon phase of a relationship, romantic or otherwise.

“Boomerang” elicits the opposite feeling of “Wonderland,” utilizing Henley’s expressive vocals to show off the tumultuous side of being in a relationship. And that sass is back; and turned up a notch with the help of strong background vocal support driving it home. The last track is the stunning “Steady Bound,” a sensory experience that brings the smoldering drama pairing Henley’s vulnerable, heady vocals with beautiful, lush strings and a simple, effective piano. But it’s the uptempo “Positively Me” that shows off the playful and liquid smooth vocals of Henley in their prime. It’s a track with all the spunk and soul that Henley possesses.

It’s clear that Tess Henley has a natural gift for rhythm and melody; she is a talented and true-to-herself songwriter who knows exactly who she is. Working with a producer of Was’ caliber has only served to polish an already shining jewel in the neo soul music scene. Wonderland is such a breath of fresh air, and finds Henley maturing and expressing herself in all her unique glory. She just keeps honing her craft and now finds herself on the precipice of even greater achievements to come. Wonderland marks a massive creative step forward that is sure to propel Tess Henley in front of tons of new fans.


Tess Henley website: http://tesshenley.com/

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