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Music is in Izzi Dunn's DNA. Her mother an opera singer and her father a singer and radio presenter, growing up in Sheffield was perennially accompanied by a myriad of sounds. She'd travel with her parents on the tour circuit, and with their support, drawn to live music, took up cello aged nine. Later, with her ear tuned to different styles and her tastes more finely honed, Izzi was enamoured with strong, passionate vocalists, especially the classic sounds of folk-soul chanteuse Tracy Chapman, soul diva Chaka Khan, British R&B pioneer Carleen Anderson and the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself, Mary J Blige. Recognising her own ample vocal capabilities alongside her comfortable proficiency with the strings, Izzi’s twin-threat, double-headed approach of singer-songwriter and cellist was thus born. Izzi's bow as a solo artist was 2004's The Big Picture, a gutsy, understated album marking her arrival as a vocalist to be reckoned with. British music stalwarts Roots Manuva and Soul II Soul's Jazzie B took notice, promptly recruiting her string talents for their own sessions; so too did Bugz In The Attic - crucially adding a live angle to the West London production unit's digital soul sound; even Beatle George Harrison was a beneficiary. Heading up the Demon Strings string section, Izzi became not just a driving component of studio productions, but a key element in the live shows of pop’s most credible names, joining Mark Ronson and Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad and The Queen line-ups on worldwide tours. Her follow-up record, 2010's invigorating Cries & Smiles, was one of the most candid and endearing British soul records of its time. A touch more refined than her debut, the vocals were impassioned and heartfelt, the music raw and earthy or sombre and elegant by turn. Songs like Kill Me Slow were cinematic and dreamy, the grandiose production evoking the best of Massive Attack and Portishead. Keyboard wiz Kaidi Tatham contributed the spiky Tits & Ass; Nothing But Love, co-written with Tom Middleton, was laidback and exalted, sublime without smoothing off the edges. The album was generously string-laden and imbued with sincerity, and drawing on both the fervent musical savvy of vintage R&B and the easy-going appeal of classy pop, was firmly in line with the heritage of the best-loved British soul music. Lately she's been camped in the studio, adding her trademarked touches to the current work of her very best contemporaries: arranging and recording with soul legend Bobby Womack, hip-hop's most revered newcomer Jay Electronica, and alt-rocker Cody ChesNutt for each of their 2012 albums. This year also marks the latest chapter for Izzi as a solo artist, and her thrilling four-track acoustic EP, Visions. Its undressed production places her voice at the forefront, its grit, depth and charmingly rough edges exposed. Resplendent with sincerity and warmth, it finds Izzi a touch more sober and earnest, not least on the subtly menacing and macabre Devils Apprentice and jazz-rooted It Wasn't Love. Deft, wry string arrangements - still her signature style - frame the touching Mr Hudson cover Picture Of You and Visions, co-written with German/French artist Patrice (a version appeared on his album in 2010). This kaleidoscopic and far-ranging flair - Izzi Dunn as cellist, singer, songwriter, performer and arranger - is the extraordinary story so far of a riveting and most modern artist.

Izzi Dunn Izzi Dunn, London, Britain (UK)

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  • Cries and Smiles (Limestone Remix) Artwork

    Cries and Smiles (Limestone Remix)

    Izzi Dunn on August 19, 2011 08:59

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