Review: Karen Elson Replicates Renowned Renditions for ‘Radio Redhead’


Creatives are doing what they do best during quarantine: getting creative, and supermodel turned gothic Americana singer-songwriter Karen Elson is no exception.

On her new EP Radio Redhead Vol. 1, Elson shares the studio-recorded versions of the tracks she has covered on her Instagram quarantine cover series after enthusiastic reception of the casual sets from listeners.

There’s something refreshing about Elson’s choice of songs, ranging from “Lay All Your Love on Me” to Elton John’s “Sacrifice,” as these tracks were never meant to end up being recorded in the studio or on an EP. This is a compilation of Elson singing songs that she loves.

Elson has released several EPs interspersed by two full-length albums during her career since her Jack White-produced debut The Ghost Who Walks in 2010. Whether you are familiar with her global modeling superstardom or humble Nashville breakout, Elson leads a devoted cult following in all of her striking, and occasionally quirky, musical projects.

Her music career began with establishing and performing with the politically-active Citizens Band based in New York City that had a flair for theater and extravagant showmanship. But the common-denominator for all Elson musical endeavors will always be her harrowing voice that seems to cut through straight to the soul. Elson sings with such striking beauty and softness not without an undeniable darkness that lingers under her sweet vocals, a seductive smokiness that keeps an audience hooked.

The tracks themselves are also a collection of easy-going folk cuts which complement the gentleness of both her voice and the minimal production style- typically just piano and acoustic guitar accompaniment. There seems to be a consistent vein of heartbreak and desolation, maybe just a sign of the times, but tracks like “We’ll Meet Again” work to balance out the hopelessness of “Dancing On My Own.”

Radio Redhead Vol. 1 possesses a simple sweetness in serving its purpose as a fun creative outlet, as Elson sings the songs she admires and shares that appreciation with the world.

The EP’s “Vol. 1” moniker promises more covers to come, but hopefully not in lieu of new original work by Elson.

Radio Redhead reminds us part of why we love Elson, her stunning vocals and knack for the melancholy, but it is no personal creative journey that is seemingly saved for original content. In the meantime, this collection of easy-listening cuts exemplifies how Elson plays with themes of sorrow and mourning over deceptively tender vocals.