Was that really a boisterous KT Tunstall bellying up to the Stubbs’ bar alongside MT at South By Southwest in Austin last year? The raven-haired Scottish songstress wasn’t listed among the night’s performers; turns out she’d bum-rushed her way onto the bill, her cheekiness paying dividends in the way of several hundred new fans. Yours truly simply marveled at how her accent grew more pronounced with every gulp of her drink. Now comes Eye to the Telescope, finally enjoying a belated U.S. release and already getting that all-important "World Café" NPR seal of approval. She’s been rightly compared to Norah Jones (the throaty, low-slung vocals) and Beth Orton (the charismatic, slippery delivery — check opening cut "Other Side Of The World," which sounds like Orton covering Tom Petty’s "Free Falling"). And like those two artists Tunstall isn’t afraid of covering a lot of stylistic ground either: In addition to pop, ETTT skitters schizophrenically through R&B, gospel-jazz, trip-hop, alt-country and folk. In the sassy, strummy and unbelievably catchy "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," Tunstall even juggles all of those balls at the same time (imagine Joss Stone if she’d drop the stylized shtick and just rock the hell out). "Miniature disasters and minor catastrophes/ Bring me to my knees," confesses Tunstall in "Miniature Disasters," another edgy anthem. Meanwhile, material this woozysexycool might bring you to your knees. The booze is optional.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.