Michelle Willis: See Us Through

Michelle Willis See Us Through.jpg

Submitted by Lee Fraser

This past Sunday night, Michelle Willis held back-to-back early and late CD release shows to introduce her first ever solo album, “See Us Through”. The fact that it’s her debut is pretty surprising, given the fact that Michelle has toured Europe, Canada and the US, and that every show she plays in her hometown of Toronto is filled to capacity with her adoring fans.

But debut album it is and it has been worth the wait. The Michelle Willis style of music is a little jazz, a little funk and a whole lot of amazing vocals. “See Us Through” is the kind of album that envelopes you in warmth and beauty. The lyrics lift you up, even if you are nowhere close to being down, and provide a solid footing of optimism and encouragement. The arrangements are very rich; most tracks have jazz-like percussion and rhythm. The guitar work of Thom Gill and the moody violin of Hugh Marsh are evidence of two incredibly talented musicians who know just what flair to add to a strong foundation. Michelle’s piano is playful while being sophisticated.

Michelle WillisMichelle WillisBut this album is really about the vocals. With a history of singing in the choir, Michelle is surrounded, in her life and her work, by beautiful singers and so she has generously sprinkled small and large choir vocals on every track. This is the type of album that has sweeping powerful vocals that can stop you in your tracks and move you to tears.

At the CD release show, Michelle was joined by The O’Pears (Jill Harris, Lydia Persaud and Meg Contini), who also contributed to the recording. The show opened with a capella singing by the group, just as the CD does. Opening phrases by Michelle herself demonstrated the range and control that she has. The whole show was a sea of positive energy and adoration.

Imagine attending a show like this based on a recommendation and finding yourself surrounded by this beautiful music and the incredibly strong show of support from the audience. On several occasions, Michelle prompted the audience to sing along; despite the newness of the album, the Burdock became one large choir, sounding just incredible. Michelle Willis has some very talented singers as fans.

In May, Michelle will be back on the road, opening for and playing with Snarky Puppy, the party jazz sensation from New York by way of Texas. She has a few dates on her own in the southern US before heading to New York City for a residency. With no dates set for Toronto in the near future, it just might be worth planning a trip to the Big Apple.

For more information visit michellewillis.ca