|Lissy Walker — Wonderland|
Lissy Walker — Wonderland
♦•♦ The highly anticipated new album delivers another sublime collection of eclectic, soulful, folk/jazz. Walker's sweet–smoky vocals and her virtuoso band breath new life into re–imagined songs from The Great American Songbook and beyond.
Location: Berkeley, California
Album release: March 25, 2014
Record Label: Dogwood Records/Strawberry Canyon Records
01 Dream A Little Dream Of Me / I'll See You In My Dreams 5:24
02 You're A Heavenly Thing 3:02
03 Tonight You Belong To Me 3:45
04 Isn't It Romantic? 4:38
05 Lazy Afternoon / Where Of When 6:44
06 Little Person 4:32
07 Faithless Love 3:57
08 There Ain't No Sweet Man (That's Worth The Salt Of My Tears) 3:38
09 I Wish I Was A Fool For You 3:49
10 I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles 3:48
11 Remember 4:08
12 Lover Man 4:43
13 Something Wonderful 4:04
14 I'll Be Home 5:11
15 Lullaby In Ragtime 3:16
♦•♦ Lissy Walker: vocals, backing vocals;
♦•♦ John R Burr: piano, Hammond B3 organ;
♦•♦ Jon Evans: bass, lap steel guitar, electric guitar;
♦•♦ Scott Nygaard: guitar, mandolin;
♦•♦ Jason Lewis: drums;
♦•♦ Steven Bernstein: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 8, 11), slide trumpet (15);
♦•♦ Ben Goldberg: clarinet (1, 15);
♦•♦ Dave MacNab: 12–string guitar (5, 7);
♦•♦ Philip Worman: cello (10, 12);
♦•♦ Carla Kihlstedt: violin (4, 14);
♦•♦ Liz Schultze: cello (4, 14).
♦•♦ Lissy Walker sings jazz, but she brings her own unique spin to the music by adding elements drawn from the worlds of folk, country, and the 70s singer/songwriter movement. She's been an actress and singer for most of her life and brings a nuanced, dramatic sensibility to her jazz vocals and her new recording, Wonderland.
♦•♦ Her critically acclaimed debut, Life Is Sweet, included some of the Bay Area’s and New York’s finest jazz and folk musicians, including John R. Burr on piano, Jon Evans on bass, Scott Nygaard on guitar, and Steven Bernstein on trumpet, with arrangements that brought together an innovative mix of jazz and folk.
♦•♦ When it was time for a follow–up, Walker reassembled the Life Is Sweet team, along with some new special guest players. The ensemble went into Berkeley’s legendary Fantasy Studios on Valentine’s Day and cut Wonderland, an album that brings Walker’s subtle intensity to bear on another collection of gems from the American Songbook, as well as a few modern classics.
♦•♦ For most of us, the word “wonderland” conjures up images of Lewis Carroll’s surrealistic fables, as well as a dizzying array of misty–eyed impressions gleaned from a lifetime of listening to popular songs and reading romantic novels. Walker shares some of the same impressions, but with more of an edge. “This is an album of love songs,” Walker says, “but the overall feel this time is darker, tinted with a more mature hue. The romance is still there, with the hope and dreams tempered by a touch of reality.”
♦•♦ Lyrically, the songs on Wonderland deal in dreams and illusions, desires fulfilled and unfulfilled, and the power of reflection and intent. Walker’s sweet, smoky, purring alto, is perfectly suited to these songs of yearning, imbuing them with a realistic combination of longing and resignation, with just a hint of playfulness to bring a bit of light into the terrain of emotional uncertainty.
♦•♦ Musically, the focus is on songs from two great songwriting eras: swing tunes from the 20s/early 30s and folky singer/songwriter ballads and anthems from the 70s. ♦•♦ Walker's burnished vocals have a hint of restrained passion that suggest country music, but her phrasing, which dances around and before the beat, is pure jazz. Her interpretations, and the virtuosity of the band, blend the two eras together, resulting in a classic, yet contemporary, vibe — a perfect hybrid.
♦•♦ The songs on Wonderland deal in dreams and illusions, desires fulfilled and unfulfilled, and the power of reflection and intent. Walker’s sweet, smoky, purring alto is perfectly suited to these songs of yearning. The focus is on songs from two great songwriting eras: swing tunes from the 20s/early 30s and folk ballads from the 70s. ♦•♦ Walker’s rich vocals have a hint of restrained passion that suggest country music, but her phrasing, which dances around and before the beat, is pure jazz. Her interpretations, and the brilliance of the band, blend the two eras together, resulting in a classic, yet contemporary, vibe — a perfect hybrid.
♦•♦ Some three years have passed since Lissy Walker made her dazzling debut with Life is Sweet (subject of a highly favorable review in TheBluegrassSpecial.com) but in the interregnum she seems to have grown bolder as a singer. On Wonderland her singing has a sense of freedom about it that strikes your faithful friend and narrator as being indicative of a new confidence — not necessarily in her technical skills as a jazz singer but in letting passion rule the day because the technique will be there, doesn’t have to be thought about. You’ll hear it right off the bat, in her medley of those lovely old warhorses, “Dream a Little Dream of Me/I’ll See You in My Dreams.” Is it necessary to point out how dreamy the track is, given the songs? But that’s part of the allure: an opening swirl of melody centered on John R. Burr’s piano and Ben Goldberg’s clarinet supporting a deliberate vocal segues seamlessly into a soft jazz shuffle with Ms. Walker purring a low–key come–on and being shadowed by Steven Bernstein’s warm trumpet and Goldberg’s clarinet. Similarly, her treatment of “Tonight You Belong to Me,” the 1926 evergreen written by Billy Rose and Lee David, is all sultriness and sweetness with a country flavor in an easy swinging arrangement featuring Scott Nygaard’s mandolin and Burr’s discretely rumbling B3. (“Tonight You Belong To Me” has not been treated well in the wake of Patience & Prudence’s 1956 hit version, with special indignities visited on it by The Bird and The Bee; Zooey Deschanel and Ben Schwartz; and, worst of all, Eddie Vedder and the talent–free Cat Power on Vedder’s useless 2011 solo album, Ukulele Songs, but Lissy Walker’s version corrects all those musical homicides.) She works similar wonders on Rodgers and Hart’s “Isn’t It Romantic?” Hers is for the super–romantic, with the tender affection in her voice augmented by Scott Nygaard’s nylon–string guitar, Burr’s spare piano fills and a soothing, ever–ascendant string section ladling on an extra patina of sigh inducing beauty.
By BRUCE LINDSAY, Published: September 7, 2014 | SCORE: ****
♦•♦ Alice had many adventures in Wonderland: they could be fun, they could be touching, but they were seldom musical. Lissy Walker's second album, Wonderland, also provides lots of adventures — some fun, some touching, all musical.
♦•♦ A quick glance at the song titles — "Something Wonderful," "Where Or When," "Isn't It Romantic?" — put this album fairly and squarely into American Songbook territory. A quick glance at the instrumentation — lap steel guitar, 12–string guitar, mandolin — suggests that the territory is a bit further out west. But there's a trumpet, strings, a Hammond B3. And there are songs from Randy Newman ("I'll Be Home"), Harry Nilsson ("Remember") and Richard Thompson ("For Shame Of Doing Wrong," adopting Sandy Denny's preferred title of "I Wish I Was A Fool For You"). Confusing, isn't it?
♦•♦ Stop glancing at lists, start listening to the music. Suddenly, it isn't confusing at all. Walker expertly draws these disparate sources, instruments and influences together. It's a reminder, if one were required, that musical boundaries are as permeable as a soggy paper bag.
♦•♦ Walker's vocal tone owes much to country music, her phrasing stems from a love of jazz. She may lack out and out power, but she can emphasise meaning or emotion with a subtle shift of her voice. She can swing, too — as she proves on "There Ain't No Sweet Man" and "I'll See You In My Dreams."
♦•♦ The mix of jazz, folk and country songs needs, and gets, a band that understands each genre. Walker gives John David Souther's "Faithless Love" a straightforward but heartfelt performance, the song retaining its country roots thanks especially to John R Burr's Floyd Cramer piano flourishes. On "I Wish I Was A Fool For You" Walker's subtle shifts in emphasis capture the ambiguity of the lyrics, Burr's piano and Jason Lewis' understated drumming forming an ideal accompaniment. ♦•♦ Trumpeter Steven Bernstein and clarinetist Ben Goldberg's playing is stylish and cool — their partnership adding to the swing and optimism of "I'll See You In My Dreams."
♦•♦ The combination of "Lazy Afternoon" and "Where Or When" is particularly inspired. Jon Evans' lap steel and Dave MacNab 's 12–string are low in the mix but prominent enough to give the songs an ethereal beauty. Walker's fragile vocal flows seamlessly between the songs, weaving the lyrics together so that they tell a single story.
♦•♦ Written around 1919, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" has been swung by Dean Martin, adopted as the theme tune of East London's West Ham United football team, given a punk rock makeover by West Ham fans the Cockney Rejects. Walker takes it back to its waltz time roots and reminds us that in the right hands (and voice) it's a lovely, sad, song. In fact, it's never been lovelier. :: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/
♦•♦ "Inspired choices and arrangements, Lissy Walker imbues he jazz phrasing with a country edge and establishes herself as a singer to watch and listen for..." — Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz
♦•♦ " Jazz, folk, and country are fused beautifully on Lissy Walker's debut album, Life Is Sweet...emotional, lovely, dreamy, sweet...Lissy's vocals are simply beautiful." — Wilbert Sostre, JazzTimes
♦•♦ "Life is Sweet is a sheer delight from start to finish. Walker purrs, coos and swaggers sultrily through The Songbook...beautiful, delectably sweet..." — David McGee, The Absolute Sound
♦•♦ "I've discovered a new voice." — Jonathan Schwartz
CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lissywalker2
|Lissy Walker — Wonderland|