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Sally Louise reaches new vocal heights with 'Butterflies' EP 

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Sally Louise is a songwriter seemingly born of the pandemic. Her sudden switch from opera singer to original artist unbeholden to any one genre came at a time of widespread stunted creativity, and her first single “Milky Blue” in July 2020 was ethereal, fresh, and introspective.

Two years later, with several singles and the engaging, if stylistically unfocused full-length album “My Hands Are on Fire” in the rear-view mirror, Louise moves toward a more folk-based sound while retaining her varied sonic approach. Her new EP, “Butterflies,” released Sept. 23, draws renewed attention to her best musical gift — her voice.

If Louise’s previous recordings suffered from anything, it was that her songwriting was at times too self-conscious, so intent on pointing to structure and clever arrangements that her vocals could come off as emotionally tethered. It was as if there was another level, another gear into which Louise had yet to shift.

While that remains the case on much of “Butterflies,” Louise’s voice soars with confidence and a sense of purpose in the closing track “Open Hands”:

Loving freely ‘cause I know you chose me/ Oh, this is loving with open hands…

Now my patient wait is over/ You’re my lucky four leaf clover
I’ll shout it from the mountaintops/ All my self hatred from here stops
I got my chosen family/ And they remind me that I’m free.

The title track is a loping, harmony-laden morsel of Americana that is comfort food for the ears. But the anomaly here is the opening track “The Sun,” a stunning a cappella song that recalls both polyphonic church music from the Renaissance and Celtic folk tunes. The result is an original composition that sounds like a standard that has existed for 300 years.

Louise continues to impress with thoughtful songs that showcase her knack for pop writing. But I can’t escape the feeling that she has a much higher ceiling, one that she hinted at with the ballad “Honey, Hold On.”

The technical ability is there, but Louise has yet to unleash her voice expressively in a way that sounds completely free. I’d like to think we haven’t yet heard her singing at the height of her powers.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at
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