Miss E. is Missy Ragonese, a guitarist/percussionist/ singer/songwriter based in Syracuse. She plies her trade in and around Central NY under several monikers: Miss E., Miss E. Duo, her main band Dovetail Joint and Miss 3, a female power trio.
Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get your name out there and this lady lays it on the line every day. Yesterday’s Muse is like “the story so far” in her journey as a professional musician. While her influences become clear, her voice and guitar licks quickly establish a style both contemporary and individual.
Let’s run this baby up the flagpole and see what happens. Miss E. is joined by her Dovetail Joint band-mates Paul Carpenter on bass guitar and Dan Redmond on drums, along with a guest appearance from Syracuse native Paulie Cerra on sax. “Cherie”, the opener, is sweetly melodic featuring Paulie’s silky licks rolling over Miss E’s deft rhythm line, a very smooth beginning that transitions nicely into “Always”, a bittersweet reminiscence. Miss E. knows how to tell a love story and you can feel her swoon as the memory swirls. It’s downright beautiful, her voice rich and sure, the guitar dances with her while her heart opens lyrically.
Each song segues to the next with sounds from nature leaving no empty spaces between each piece mixed by perfectly by Jeff Moleski at Moletrax Studios. “Just One Kiss” is the first track where Miss E. lets the electric guitar rip and cuts loose some solos. Her soaring licks melding with the heart-felt vocals to fully express her emotion in the moment.
“A Girl Like Me” switches up gears a bit with this song of determination and defiance against the road-blocks of a musician’s life and the belief in a dream that keeps her going against it.
“The Tide is Turnin’” turns it up several notches on the attitude meter as Miss E. wails a growling vocal line accenting her screaming guitar solos. This is all about spitting in the face of oppression no matter what form it takes and she reveals several. The reggae break puts a light beat behind the most serious in a Marleyesque way.
Isolation can be confused by onlookers as arrogance and “Anything Less” paints a picture of reality vs. conceived illusion from others jealousy. A hand that holds you down, instead of lifting you up, until you realize what really counts is your own image of yourself. Her sultry, knowing voice echoes their words until you can feel her confidence take over in the final verse. Very powerful stuff here, most artists don’t have the nerve to be this self-expressive and it’s a hallmark of the whole album.
“Oh No” let’s Miss E. wave her Hendrix flag, her funky wah pedal work and gritty voice scream out, trying to pull someone back from the edge and expressing the intense frustration that can bring. Her solo lines cast a lifeline that seems to not reach the intended goal.
“Hold On” brings a reggae feel to a lover’s cry for patience, but we all know how difficult waiting can be. She pleads for the space to make things right before they can be together, and the raw emotion in her voice makes you want to believe.
Paulie Cerra returns on “Super Woman Lover (SWL)”, his sax is as sultry as her dream sequence verbalized. I know I said it before, but the lady can write a love song. This time she’s flat out confident and sexy, determined and strong. The “Spooky” feel is perfect for the topic and twists the lyric in your mind.
A little bit of Carlos pops right out of “When It’s Your Turn”, from the Latin percussion feel to the chord progression. Almost a dare or a challenge to step-up and keep it real, it’s softly in your face and honest.
“Is This Love” could almost be a Toy Caldwell tune, simple and to the point, yet emotive in the guitar line, more than through the lyric. Each solo ascending the previous to the ultimate conclusion and the answer to the question asked. Both.
“Shoot Me Down” sets its tone right off the bat, it rocks hard and bares her heart. Humility is always a tough topic and the wanting to retain it is tougher. She pleads for honesty and guidance from her inner self, or is it from her lover? To be oblique as a writer is a slippery slope and she navigates this one with skill.
“Indigo Sunset” pays a musical homage to the Indigo Girls, Miss E.’s light touch on the acoustic reminds me of a lighter “History Of Us” melody, not the topic, but the feel of the guitar. A great closer that gives her a chance to show-off her acoustic chops to match the variety of feels she has playing electric.
Overall this is a fabulous and daring album of life-stories, the best music always comes from the heart and Miss E.’s heart is all over each cut here. I found this to be a great cruising disc, especially when you can listen to it completely without interruption. I bet it’s pretty good to make-out to as well.
Check it out and support local music!
Key Tracks: Always, The Tide is Turnin’, Is This Love