Tanya Gallagher’s music speaks to generations, and her newest album is the greatest indicator of the singer-songwriter’s multifarious appeal yet. As much a supplement to the 60s and 70s folk ushered in by Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez as she is by the 90s and early aughts’ anti-folk songstresses, Gallagher’s art weaves new territory while paying homage to musical elements and themes that rocked previous eras. With her smoky, rich vocals at the center of melodious hooks and thick, roots-driven production, there’s much to immediately ensnare across the expanse of her latest release, One Hand on My Heart.
Not unlike Suzie Brown, Gallagher leads a double life that may come across as unconventional for most working musicians. One Hand on My Heart was written while the Pensacola artist was engaged in studies that would contribute to a phD in forestry. After breaking up with a longtime boyfriend, Gallagher used her artistic ingenuity to weaponize a broken heart, finding a creative outlet in her music to divert from academic stresses. The result is genuinely one of this writer’s most favorite releases of the year thus far.
Where Gallagher soars is in crafting dense lyricism that captures the complexities of her emotions while remaining easily communicable through an impeccable vocal presence. She plays with bewitching rhythms and melodies throughout to sweeten the pot alongside some picturesque allegories—just ask ‘Dolphin in the Snow—but it’s in her own heartfelt delivery that One Hand on My Heart truly finds its footing. Instantly identifiable through her husky timbre, Gallagher draws a soul to her performances that immediately captures an audience in the same way that artists along the lines of Marc Cohn would.
This isn’t to wave a finger at her impressive musicality, however. The variety of styles present across the artist’s six-track EP are astoundingly diverse in presentation, but concise in quality. Crystalline production assures that Gallagher immediately makes her mark with ‘Dark Side’—a sauntering folk-rock number that’s swagger stands toe-to-toe with Alanis Morissette. Tinges of banjo strut and a lingering organ keep the “folk” in folk-rock even as she indulges in a poppy, toe-tapping beat.
Gallagher owns her heartbreak throughout the album, as well; through the tell-all Americana of ‘A Little Effort’ and swampy hymnal of ‘Broken Land’ she puts her foot down with a self-driven confidence and moves past what chaos she couldn’t control. With a rocker’s stride, she sends it home by vowing not to make the same ‘Mistake’ again. After playing with the enchanting rhythmic sway of ‘Dolphin in the Snow’, she settles into the pure soul of ‘Magic’, coming in for a heartfelt landing on her latest album.
Says Gallagher on One Hand on My Heart, “Both in relationships and in grad school, you face a lot of rejection, and so sometimes I would come home after a tough period and think, ‘Well, what would I say if I felt confident?’ Writing these songs helped me to face my insecurities and kept me moving forward.”
Words by: Jonathan Frahm