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LISA ANN WRIGHT SWEET BYE & BYE This is a very classy album. Lisa Ann Wright's songs are a variegated lot: "Last Gift" is a remembrance of her father's last words to her as he was fading. "The Shore" is for her mother. "Wendy's Song" is sung through the character of Wendy Coffield, the first of serial killer Gary Ridgway's forty-eight victims. "The Letter" chronicals the tragedy of Akira Nishihira's family suicide. "Soup, Soap and Salvation" is a wry view of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Kroc, founders of McDonald's. "Everywomen's Blues" ponders being "just another white girl singing the blues" despite a pretty comfy life. Nice jazzy feel here especially following Lisa Ann's torch song for "Someone" who mattered a whole lot. "Friend in the Fall" tries to make sense of a broken relationship. "Lucinda" is a rocking tribute to Ms. Williams. With the variety of themes come a variety of settings. The opener "Lucinda" as noted flat out rocks. "Soup. Soap" is just Lisa Ann and Ira Gitlin's banjo. Bobby Martin's pedal steel and Benjie Porecki's organ lend "Last Gift" warmth and country comfort. In "Wendy's Song," an eerie opening sound segues to an urgent, grim melody driven by guitar, banjo and double bass. Al Petteway's gentle guitar brings out the despair in "The Letter." The jazziness of "Someone" and "Everywoman's Blues" is bracing. Sweet Bye and Bye is beautifully produced and engineered with lovely sound to best showcase Lisa Ann's warmth.

Twang Thang

Trendy Monkey Reviews Lisa Ann Wright "Sweet Bye&Bye 

 

Lisa Ann Wright Sweet Bye&Bye 

 

It is probably only a coincidence that Lucinda Williams’ long-awaited new album was released the same week as Lisa Ann Wright’s debut CD, Sweet Bye&Bye, but there are more than a few similarities between the two. They both deal with loss and death; Lisa and Lucinda sing about the recent deaths of their mothers. Lisa goes a step further and takes women as her major theme – all kinds of women -- including victims of serial killers, victims of Japanese gangs, white female blues singers, women who have been disappointed and those who disappoint. 

 

Lisa takes a wry look at religion and death, and her songs are populated with serial killers, the rich, parents, daughters, friends and preachers, all who may need redemption. The first song on Sweet Bye&Bye is about Lucinda Williams herself -- one of Lisa’s personal musical heroes. In the rave-up, accordion-driven “Lucinda,” Lisa sings, “Lucinda you're still around, Gotta be so hard to wear that crown.” The song has a swampy beat with a Louisiana fee, driving and forceful. Like Lucinda Williams, Lisa is from rural America. She grew up one of eight children on a farm in upstate New York. Her father died when she was young and “Last Gift” is a song of loss and longing, about her father's priceless last gift, a gentle stroke of her hair. 

 

Lisa recruited some DC-area all-stars players for her album, including former band mate guitarist Mike Woods (Honky Tonk Confidential, The Fabulettes), DC folk hero (and Grammy winner) Al Petteway on guitar, Ira Gitlin on banjo, jazz great Davey Yarborough on sax, Robbie Magruder on drums, and her own son Justin Mathews, who is a young jazz guitarist in NYC, as well as other fine DC musicians such as Benjie Porecki, Brian Simms, Jay Britton, and John Nazdin. Ira Gitlin’s banjo dominates “Wendy’s Song,” or “Green River Gary,” a spooky tune about Gary Leon Ridgway, the Seattle- area serial killer. It’s from the point of view of the first of his 48 victims, who asks him how he felt when he killed, “How did it feel with your hands on the necks. Did you kill us before or after the sex? We don’t remember if we fought or we cried. God only knows how we felt when we died.” The banjo and mournful cello are the musical drivers of this song, accompanied by an eerie chorus of ghosts. 

 

“The Letter,” which begins with Lisa and a lone guitar, is about the suicide letter a Japanese woman writes, asking for forgiveness. The song, like many on the CD, is based on truth. Akiro Nishihira borrowed some money from a Japanese gang and when she couldn't pay the money back, she squatted on a train track with her husband and brother, letting the train bear down on and kill them. The lilting, melancholy lyrics go, “‘Please forgive me truly,’ said the letter. ‘I cannot apologize enough.’” The letter continues, “‘How strange these words upon the pretty paper. I ask for your forgiveness with my death.’” 

 

“Preachers and Slaves” is a send-up of the 1911 “Joe Hill” IWW (Wobblies) union song, "The Preacher and the Slave," which itself was a cynical parody of the hymn "Sweet Bye and Bye.” The latter tune mocks the Salvation Army for its hypocrisy in being more interested in feeding itself than the poor. In “Preachers and Slaves,” Lisa takes a turn at middle class Americans who praise farmers (i.e. Farm Aid) but whose knowledge of the “working folk” comes from the movie screen: “You knew a farmer once, you said, a real upstanding guy. But somehow he just made you sad, you never wondered why.” Lisa bares her soul and tells us who she is when she sings: “So you've sold out and so have I, we're really just the same My pretty face has set my place, you play a rich man's game But I'll console myself with thoughts that I'm my daddy's girl A farmer's daughter honoring a working person's world.”

 

 In the beautiful, slow, gospel-feeling “Friend in the Fall,” the singer wonders if she deserves the treatment she receives from her “friend” who abandoned her. The song starts out with sparse guitar, then is layered with a Hammond B3 and backing vocals until it becomes a large, sorrowful and soulful lament.

 

 “Soup, Soap and Salvation” is a tongue-in-cheek look at the McDonalds (as in burgers and fries) charities, including more than $200 million that Ray Kroc’s widow, Joan, bequeathed to NPR. Although it was a “no-strings-attached” gift, NPR’s Susan Stamberg joked to reporters, “I’m changing my name to McStamberg.” The chorus goes, “Soup, soap and salvation will never make you fat. But here’s your new McBible, do you want fries with that? ….We’ll save your souls with a cheeseburger and a cold McFlurry shake.” “The Shore,” dedicated to Lisa’s mother, is a tear-drenched goodbye from one woman to another. Lisa sings, “Asleep, I let you drift away I know the boat was there, that you couldn’t stay In slumber I was lost The river then, you surely crossed And alone, you left me, on the shore” 

 

“Someone” is a jazzy love note to an old friend (or, possibly, old flame), who is worth remembering, wistfully, with no regrets. Benjie Porecki’s piano transports the listener into a dark, smoky jazz bar, and the effect is lovely. “Everywoman’s Blues,” while bowing to the great Billie Holiday, is a paean about women who speak their own minds, even if they can’t do it as well as others. Lisa pokes fun at herself with the chorus, “Singing the blues, hey yeah I’m singing the blues. Now Billie sang ‘em better, but we share the same views, and I’m just another white girl, singing the blues. 

 

Lisa’s mother’s only instruction for her own funeral was that “Sweet Bye and Bye” be sung. Lisa writes, “Somehow, that corny old hymn doesn’t sound so corny any more.” Lisa’s son Justin Mathews ends the CD with a haunting solo guitar piece based on the tune. It doesn’t get any less corny than that. -- DQ

 
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itunes Review

Lisa Ann Wright's first cd, "Sweet Bye & Bye" reminds me why I like to spend so much time exploring the independent music scene. Now and then you find a gem: songs you just want to keep for yourself, but you know you have to share. Listed here as folk, Lisa's music, first and foremost, should not be confined to any genre. The Blues, Jazz, and Country all share center stage. Her vocals are sweet and inviting, her lyrics thoughtful, and her melodies and arrangements often have a playful quality. Geff King's energetic arrangement of "Lucinda" gives the abum its opening punch, and may well be--IMHO--the best track. "Wendy's Song" chillingly tells the tale of the Green River killer Gary Ridgway, through the voice of his first victim, Wendy Coffield. The song highlight's Wright's lyrical storytelling ability and invites you to listen again and again. "Someone"has a sultry, smoky jazz flavor, and "Everywoman's Blues" is just pure fun. The CD is something of a family affair, Wright's son, Justin Mathews, appears throughout the album and co-authored "Preachers and Slaves" with his mother. Unlike a lot of independent music, you will want to keep these songs and play them repeatedly...but be sure to share them with your friends and family. You'll be glad you did.

http://www.itunes.com

Takoma Voice

Sweet Bye and Bye by Lisa Ann Wright (and friends) starts well with "Lucinda," a driving entreaty to the queen herself, Lucinda Williams. The song may well remind you of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline," with a touch of cajun accordion. You may want to hear this ensemble several times in a row. 

The CD is not all sweetness, though. This woman is mad as heck and she may not be gonna take it much longer. Lucky she has an outlet in writing and singing. In "Preachers and Slaves" irony pours down like oil on a good ol' song. Biblical verses versus heavy rock guitars -- and the guitars win. 

Wright gets my attention more in her simple, direct, powerful songs like "Friend in the Fall." Here the voice personifies the words as Lisa Ann reflects on the death of her mother and father. I'm reminded of Roseanne Cash's funereal CD Black Cadillac. We all relate to these songs, and Lisa sings hers just right.

But when she uses her voice -- which cold be fairly described as lovely-- to sing about a serial rapist murderer ("Did you kill us before or after the sex...") she has to be going for irony again. Couldn't we outsource this material to Tom Waits, or at least Gordon Bok? 

Lisa Ann is, as she admits in one song, just a white girl singing the blues. When she brings the material to her natural voice, it's a very good listen. In the end, "Seet Bye and Bye" gets a haunting reprise on Justin Mathews' guitar. All is forgiven.

 

 

Joe Bageant, Author/Blogger

"Lisa hauls off and give’em hell by speaking plain truth in both her music and her blog.”

Jeff Goodwin, NYU

"I've heard lots of people sing Joe Hill songs and songs about Joe Hill, but 'Preachers and Slaves' is certainly one of the best and most energetic additions to that tradition."

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