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With the first chord struck and the first note sung, Alison May's resounding presence silences audiences to a low murmur, eliciting the "I can't believe that voice just came out of her" reaction before commanding the complete attention of the room. This scene plays out effortlessly night after night as Alison takes to the mic with songs from her eloquent debut album Earnest Keep. The reaction is not only based on the power behind her voice but the depth of emotion conveyed in her ballads.
Alison grew up in a small town in Texas, called Waxahachie. She lived at the end of a dirt road lined with caissons, where there weren’t too many things to do besides play baseball, get ahead on homework or dig ditches when she felt angry. She began playing piano in hopes of finding a better, more constructive way to channel her emotions. Even that did not stop her from the digging and she realized she needed something louder to feel heard. So, at twelve years of age, much to her siblings’ dismay, she began playing the drums. It didn’t take long before she knew she was onto something.
Fast forward six years later to Alison receiving a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music, where she would enroll as a drum performance major. Though the drums were in her nature, and felt like her calling, the overcrowded practice rooms would eventually push her to stay inside of her dorm, playing an old, cheap, unimpressive guitar. In the moments when she knew she could not be seen or heard, she would allow herself to sing softly, very softly, as she didn’t think she was very good at it. Alison had spent the last six years hearing and imagining rhythms. Now, she was beginning to hear and imagine melodies. Eventually, harmonies would come. Ultimately, songs were being written.
Alison’s debut LP, Earnest Keep, is the perfect introduction to her multi-faceted talent. A fitting name for an album she sang, played every instrument on and co-produced for Colorado based record label Misery Loves Company. The album is a detailed account of her musical coming of age and clearly reflects her inspirations and influences, which include writers like Nick Drake, Sixto Rodriguez and Duncan Browne. The strong highs and lows Alison experienced with her family and love life caused her to encounter a buffet of emotions, realizations and self directed questions, helping to shape the raw, emotional quality of her music.
For people who need something to listen to while they’re driving away from a lover’s house for the last time, or they’re taking a plane to a new home, or need to hear the words to give them the motivation to do so, Alison May has come to supply those provisions.