Monday, January 19, 2015

Lisa Mills Says I'm Changing

Gulf Coast chanteuse Lisa Mills refers to herself as "a blue-eyed-soul singer armed with a guitar" who speaking about her music says "If anything, I would refer to what I do as American Southern roots music.” Her new release "I'm Changing" (MillsBluz Records) is mostly a re-constructed version of tracks Lisa originally recorded and released in 2005. For this updated release she employed groundbreaking producer Trina Shoemaker, the first woman to win the Grammy Award for album engineering. Her backing musicians include guitarist Rick Hirsch and drummer T. K. Lively of Wet Willie fame; guitarist Corky Hughes and bassist Ian Jennings. Lisa notes “There are two fully re-recorded tracks on the album, ‘Take My Troubles" and "Tell Me," and three new [original] songs." While she thought she would have to redo vocals on other songs, Trina Shoemaker's mixing resolved many issues so only two songs needed to be totally redone.

The opening track "Better Than This/ I Don't Need You Anymore" grabbed the attention of this listener. With Hirsch's uncluttered guitar lead and a backing that evokes classic Muscle Shoals, Mills vocals ring true. This song with lyrics of leaving a cheating man is followed by another strong performance, "I Don't Want to Be Happy" ("I just want to be with you"). Again kudos to the backing whose direct, uncluttered backing lets the full warmth of her singing to be felt and appreciated. 

"I Need a Little Sunshine," co-written with bassist Jennings, is another display of her soulful vocals, while the title track has a country-folk flavor with Pat Murphy's fiddle being prominent. The pace changes with "Eyes So Blue" an expression of love set to a joyful reggae groove. This may not be the musical highpoint, but it may be this writer's favorite selection. There are a couple gospel numbers including an a cappella rendition of her original "Tell Me,” and Rev. Robert Wilkins' "Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down," with Corky Hughes on resonator guitar. "Rain in the Summertime" is a folk-flavored performance where she is backed only by her own acoustic guitar.

"I'm Changing" closes with a marvelous interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing." Lisa Mills is an extraordinary singer and also songwriter and with the backing provided and the production supplied by Trina Shoemaker, she has provided a superb recording that should appeal to a wide range of listeners.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This CD has been out a few months and I apologize for not reviewing it earlier. I remember enjoying it when I first head it and when listening to it a couple days ago I knew I had to write about it. Here she is seen performing "I'm Changing."

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