Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's not even the curly orange hair that does it. It really isn't. We'd consider Eleisha Eagle the way we do if she were bald because nothing she sings has anything to do with the way she looks. It's nothing that would even be considered when listening to a recording of "One Part Two" or "Best You Never Had," one song a jazzy ballad and the other an empowering piece of slightly sassy confidence in the face of a certain crying jag, a night that could turn into one of those stereotypical Miranda Hobbes moments on "Sex and the City" re-runs, where the pajama pants are on and takeout is being consumed in bed. Eagle, the Austin, Texas songwriter and piano player, is an intense and fiery writer and performer, giving her words the requisite spit and forked meanings. It's as if she's apt to tell you, with an insincere smile, "Everything's fine," and get her real meaning without her ever having to say anything and it would carry just as much punch as she wanted it to. The last time we featured such a strong female voice on Daytrotter was in January when April Smith and the Great Picture Show were spotlighted. It's a similar stand that Eagle takes with the intimates that she chooses to write about on her latest, "Neither Here Nor There" and on her debut album, "Lamplighter." She sounds like a young woman with a toughened chin. She sounds as if she's trusting and would rather be trusting than any other way there is. We're led to think that she's had some moments and some men turn out to be less than flattering and she's had to pick herself up off the ground on occasion and move on with things. She comes off on "Goodbye" as an aggressor, as the one romping around and doing all of the striking, all of the hurting, all of the loving and leaving, but despite all of the signs of passionate venom in her singing and ripping piano styling, Eagle's felt the cold stings deeper. It's in those stings that she finds her creative fertility, where the alter-ego of the body doing the spiting and splitting is able to grow into a hot-blooded brute. She plays that role occasionally, but is ably fantastic at stringing together all of the hurts, turning them into episodes of sorrow, but still making them sound as if they were coming from someone who was still in control of her emotions and better off, despite the hardships. She's of the heart that will get softened, roughed up a bit, but will never be knocked out cold, not if she can help it.