Erin Ivey is one of Austin’s best-kept secrets. An intriguing and soulful writer and performer, she excels in a variety of genres — R&B, folk, jazz, reggae, hip-hop — with astonishing proficiency, her gorgeous voice always front and center. It’s no wonder the response to her work has been so enthusiastic. Perez Hilton gave her a shout-out, a New York Daily News writer dubbed her “a songwriter of the first order … Ivey has everything it takes for stardom,” and Austin’s own KUTX radio noted that Ivey “has quietly become one of our city’s biggest critical successes.”
Ivey moved to Austin from Annapolis, Maryland, to attend the University of Texas, where she first picked up a guitar and began writing songs — “as therapy.” In 2007, after a hiatus in Portland, Oregon, she returned to Austin and committed herself to pursuing music full-time. And just two years later, she recorded her stunning breakout, Broken Gold, on which she’s backed by R&B/Dub organ trio the Finest Kind. Prior to the album’s release, Ivey was often pegged as a sweet pop folksinger — “Austin’s urban folk sweetheart,” one writer termed her — best known, perhaps, for her delightful appearance in a television commercial for Reid’s Cleaners. But Broken Gold, which featured an illustration of Ivey in boxing gloves — poised to punch her way past all preconceptions — altered that narrative.
Drawing from a range of styles, Broken Gold featured 11 diverse and vital songs unified by Ivey’s own craftsmanship and the soulful backing of the Finest Kind (Rolf Ordahl on Hammond organ, Ross Alexander on bass, J.J. Johnson on drums). The highlights are “Amelia,” inspired by Amelia Earhart, which stacks a methodically understated verse against a chorus with an unforgettable hook; “Go! Go! Go!,” a terrific marriage of blue-eyed soul and hip hop featuring a rap by Mic Flo; and the gorgeous ballad “Little Star,” in which another understated verse blooms into a luminous, wordless chorus. While Ivey’s voice can be demure, playful or sultry, it is almost invariably pitch-perfect.
Ivey has remained active on the Austin scene, though recordings have been scarce, save for her powerful collaboration with the Tosca String Quartet, Whisper of the Moon. Rumors are that she’s back in the studio, readying for the release of a new album of songs this fall. One can only hope so.
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