If you’re a regular reader, and I hope that you are, you know that I have a fondness for women artists. I find that women approach the blues in an entirely different manner than men do, and I will also confess that I find the female voice to be a powerful instrument. So when I get a chance to review and play female performers, I’m going to look closely at the work and pray that I find another great artist to share.
Such is the case with Lisa Biales and her latest album, The Beat Of My Heart. I was unfamiliar with her prior to receiving her album from a source that I trust implicitly and after listening to just a few songs, I knew that I was hearing an album that would in all likelihood be on my Best Of 2017 list at the end of the year.
Fair warning, while Biales is steeped in the blues, this is not just a blues album. There are traces of jazz, a touch of funk, and more than a pinch of gospel in these songs. Biales and her band handle them with ease.
It’s her vocals that are the star. She manages to find the way into your soul with that beautiful voice and once you’ve listened to her, you just might find that you have a new favorite in your collection.
Biales starts things off on a swinging note on Disgusted. It’s happy music with a strong message about the men “trying to make a monkey out of me.” It’s a quick little ditty, but establishes the tone for the rest of the album. I like the jazzy feel and I can tell you this one will be featured soon on Time For The Blues.
Next, Salt-N-Peppa’s What A Man gets a substantial makeover from Biales. While still holding on to the funkiness of the tune, she adds a little gospel fervor and the song takes on a different tone completely. Love it.
She keeps the funk coming with I Don’t Wanna Hear It, another short song that’s long on attitude. She’s had enough of your foolishness and that’s the end of that, mister. Listen for Joe Sublett’s sax break, very nice.
Her cover of Nina Simone’s Be My Husband is next and Biale’s voice purrs and drips honey at the same time. The jazz background fits this song like a glove and Tony Braunagel’s drums are exciting while Jim Pugh’s Hammond organ contributes an otherworldly sound to the mix.
Messin’ Around With The Blues is a beautiful low and slow number. It’s a great song that I can imagine the great vocalists of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s belting out from a Harlem stage. I absolutely adore this song and its old-school feel. Can’t wait to share this one with you.
There’s a real gospel fervor to Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody. It can make a righteous man sweat and a sinner burst into flame. Get ready to join the Amen Corner, because this is an energetic and infectious song that just might give you religion.
Crying Over You is a collaboration with her then 24-year-old mother. It’s the song that actually started this album as Biales discovered this old 78 RPM record her mother had written and recorded in 1947. After cleaning it up, Biales uses her mother’s first verse before taking over. The two voices blend beautifully and the band sounds like a small combo relying on piano and horns to set the mood. Such a gorgeous song and a fitting tribute to Biales’ mother.
There’s a sweet feel to Wild Stage Of Life, as Biales and company continue that intimate combo set up. The message is clear, that there’s time later to settle down, but for right now you’ll have to forgive youth for its experimentation and wildness. Paul Brown’s guitar break is particularly good.
The band gets a little swampy on their version of Eric Bibb and C. Hoglund’s Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down. This is a deeper foray into the blues, a little lighter on the jazz feel and Pugh’s Hammond and piano carry much of the load.
Biales’ voice is the lead in to Romance In The Dark, bringing in Chuck Berghofer’s upright bass and Braunagel’s drums after the first few phrases. The rest of the band enters slowly, staying quietly behind the vocals until they get to the break. A lovely song.
I Should’ve Known Better starts out with a little front porch feel – strong drums and unusual guitars lead us into Biales’ vocals. She purrs this song, but there is an unmistakable darker edge just under her voice. She’s dangerous boys, be careful.
The album ends with Brotherly Love a quiet number that reflects on all of the changes that face us on a daily basis. Songs of social justice have always had a place in both blues and jazz, and they’ve never been so prescient as they are currently. Seems pretty obvious that we all need a little brotherly love right now.
I guess it’s safe to say that I enjoyed this album very much. Biales’ vocals remind me of when I first discovered Maria Muldaur and her expressive voice. Like Muldaur, Biales is equally at home with jazz and the blues, and I suspect many other styles as well.
This was my introduction to Lisa Biales, and I found it to be an exciting album from the first song on. It’s a tight ensemble that backs her up and adds greatly to the CD. If you think you might find you enjoy her the way I do, be sure to check out her website at http://lisabiales.com/ and see for yourself.
I highly recommend you do.