It’s always good to step aside from the clamor of the masculine mystique in the blues and visit with the ladies. So here is my latest visit to the ‘soft side’ (ha-ha) of the Blues featuring three wonderfully talented artists who surely will make you sit up and take notice of their ample talents.
Lisa Biales: Singing In My Soul (Big Song Music)
One of the most quoted idioms in the Blues world is “if you are going to cover a song, make it your own’. Easily said, not so easy to do.
With this release Ms. Lisa Biales (Be-Alice) gives a lesson on how to do it and do it right. One of my all time favorite songs is the Mississippi John Hurt ditty ‘Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me’. With this version Ms. Biales captures a different aide of the tune and make it flighty and more fun than should be allowed. With a voice that rings clear and spot on she adds a not-so-subtle touch of joy that uplifts us in the moment of and carries us right thru to the end.
With a old school rock & roll approach Lisa once again lifts us to the rafters, with her version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s ‘Strange Things Happening Every Day’. There seems to be a connection back to Ms. Tharpe’s version, with it’s rockin’ gospel treatment, but done in a style that fits Lisa and the Paris Blues Band (yes, they are from Paris, France).
A superb take on the classic doo-wop song ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ allows Ms. Biales to work her ability to sing ballads as well as her more uplifting songs. This works especially well in terms of the arranging and artistry that the bands imparts keeping it on the down low and you can just smell the smoke and taste the extra dry martini’s in the shadow laden club (or studio).
From the doo-wop to the ‘do-how’ we get treated to “You Got To Know How’. Originally penned by the amazing Sippie Wallace, Ms. Biales keeps the historic time period of this track in tact with rolling piano by Cincinnati’s favorite Ricky Nye (who also produced this release) and a down ‘n’ dirty treatment from the Paris Blue Band, dang I swear I hear a tuba on this track, that’s how cool the treatment is.
There is one original tune from Ms. Biales, ‘Magic Garden’ is a tasty walk thru this magic garden of hers that seems to be chock-filled with earthy delights and eternal renewal for everything that resides inside it. It is also worth noting that this track fits in so well with the overall feel and texture of the release, not an easy task to do.
There seems to be a natural fit with Ms. Biales and her band that transposes to the release. I can just see them sitting in the recording room/studio over one mic and sharing, laughing, and making historic music to share with us all.
Ms. Biales can be found at www.lisabiales.com
Lisa Cee: My Turn (Rip Cat Records)
OK no I am not stuck on ladies named Lisa, tho if I were it would be a good thing when you consider the ample talent these two same named gals have.
Ms. Cee comes out swinging for the fences with her treatment of ‘What Good Am I’. This is a somewhat obscure soul/R&B tune from way back in the 60′s, updated and still funky as it wants to be but rockin’ hard thru the deep rooted soul.
With that barn burner still smoldering we get treated to another form of fire, the slow burning kind. ‘Lost You’ is both a personal statement but also a universal look at the confrontation of pain and loss of a dear friend. Not always easy to express for ourselves but even that more difficult to create something that resonates with everyone who has had to deal with these realities. Some wonderful guitar work only accentuates the deep felt hollowness that one feels in their soul, bravo on this excellent track.
A more familiar riff and subject matter is ‘Good Bye Baby’. With a west coast twist on a Texas shuffle we get a solid, straight ahead hard edged testament to saying good by of another type. Scott Abeyta provides some scorching slide guitar work (as well as mastering and mixing of this release) as we hear the declaration and commitment that it’s over and done with adios mi amigo!
We jump the R&B soul train once again to visit the Staples Singers classic ‘I’ll Take You There’. Well crafted and groove laden with the aptly named Max Bangwell on bongos and some excellent acoustic guitar work by BR Millon gives this familiar, almost revered track new life. Ms. Cee’s vocals are deep and feeling without overstepping the parameters of what she is doing.
The release closes with ‘Already Free’. A stripped down track featuring acoustic guitar, vocals with some added strings to fill it in, it is a touching display of songwriting depth which is an excellent choice to close the album.
Ms. Cee is a fan fav out on the left coast with the blues and roots fans and this release should move her into wider area of recognition. Check this lady out at www.lisacee.com .
Long Tall Deb: Raise Your Hands (Vizztone)
No, not another artist named Lisa, I am opting for Deb, as in Long Tall Deb. Now this is some powerful blues that is as gritty as it is real. Ms. Landolt enlisted a who’s who of artists on this release and the final product is one that you will play till your CD player burns out.
Right out of the box we get posed the musical question, ‘What Would A Good Woman Do’ strutting, fun and featuring Roomful of Blues vocalist Phil Pemberton on vocals we are put on notice that this is going to be a straight ahead force of nature release that is strong and long on talent (as in Deb).
Changing it up from funky stepping to country rail riding we hear ‘Train To Tucson’. A musical story of the travels out to Arizona complete with stinging guitar by Colin John, accentuated by the thump-a-thump drumming of Jan Roll creates a aural travelogue that Amtrak would be good to adapt.
‘The Last Time’ showcases Ms. Landolt’s ability to express the deep soul-fullness contained within her vocal prowess. Presenting a stark and dark reality that exists for many folks in their work-a-day desperate lives, we hear the stated resolve to make that change and break the cycle of longing and uselessness only to hear the alarm clock go off and resume the gerbil like life style on the ever familiar tread mill of a life unfulfilled.
The choice of covers is ever important when pairing them with such strong originals as we have here. The selection of Ian Moore’s ‘Muddy Jesus’ is a well thought out addition. Featuring such luminaries as Chris Peet, Damon Fowler, Chuck Riley, JP Soars and Victor Wainwright – otherwise known as Southern Hospitality – this is as good of a cover of this tune as you will get. With a solid strut to it, and the excellent work by the band creates a wonderful backdrop for Ms. Deb’s vocals.
‘Finally Forgot Your Name’ features the amazing horn section from Roomful of Blues. Mark Earley, Rich Lataille & Doug Woolverton provide syncopated rhythms and fills to elevate this track to another level. The epiphany of finally forgetting the name of an unfaithful lover is treated with a soul gospel view that we can all testify to. The moment of clarity and release is both satisfying and still painful, but once it is realized the healing begins. I love the ending trumpet work by Mr. Woolverton, as it bring to musical recognition the whole emotional enchilada in just a few notes.
Once again I must cite the amazing list of other artists who contributed their time on this release. If I left ya out it is only cause my editor says it ran too long, but Jimmy Thackery, Bart Walker. Matt O’Ree, Reese Wynans, Shaun Booker, Big Llou Sean Carney and more have added their exemplar talents to creating this fine collection of music.
Like your blues powerful, with a soul and gospel feel check out Long Tall Deb at www.longtalldeb.com
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Courtesy of artists