It's always a challenge for a musician to compose outside their genre of choice, something that Auckland's Chess Countess (aka Tamsyn Miller) seems to have struggled with. With a background in musicals and as a backing singer for several big names, as well as being classically trained in violin and voice, this should have been a strong EP. Where it fails is in its focus, switching between pop numbers and more traditional songs, and even a "rapping" section that unfortunately ends up sounding like the Spice Girls...
It's hard to fault her voice though; it's strong, she definitely knows how to showcase it, but at times it seems as though she's trying to cover too much ground on one EP, and sometimes even within one song.
The production, while tight, lacks depth. The rhythm section seems tinny on some tracks and needs more low end for the pop songs to work. It comes right in the third track, September Rain, which suits the vocal style perfectly, and is a fantastic example of what Chess Countess/Tamsyn can achieve.
She does have a talent for song writing, and the compositions are finely crafted, but at times the lyrics slip into cliché, on the track My Beauty in particular.
Chess Countess seems to be trying to find her own style, which is to be encouraged, and this first EP shows that she has the ability to succeed; hopefully by the next release she would have settled into one genre and so be able to deliver a more focussed and consistent package.
Chess Countess is the alias of Tamsyn Miller, a singer, songwriter and musician based in Auckland, New Zealand. She is renowned for her theatrical stage shows, soaring vocals and uninhibited blend of genres. Miller announced herself as Chess Countess in 2010, competing in the University of Auckland’s Songwriter of the Year competition and reaching the final. She released her first EP Who is Chess Countess? on April 30th, 2011.
Miller is no stranger to the stage, having performed many leading roles in shows such as Les Miserables, Cats, Beauty and the Beast, Godspell and Pirates of Penzance. She has also supported artists such as Eric Clapton, Tom Jones and Jimmy Barnes, performed as a backing vocalist for George Benson and sung in Andrea Bocelli’s backing choir. She is classically trained in both voice and violin and also has a solid background in piano.