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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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The Orchard

Verve Forecast 0602517564510



1. Coming Home
2. My Heart
3. I Idolize You
4. Hey Mann
5. Another Angel
6. When I Fall
7. Leave Me Standing Alone
8. Speak Your Heart
9. This Is
10. Song For Mia
11. Thank You
12. Strange
Lizz Wright - Vocals
Chris Bruce, Oren Bloedow - Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass
Toshi Reagon - Acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Glenn Patscha - Keyboards, backing vocals
Kenny Banks - Piano
Patrick Warren - Keyboards
Larry Campbell - Pedal steel guitar, mandolin
John Convertino - Drums, percussion, vibes
Ben Perowsky - Drums
Larry Eagle - Drums, percussion
Joey Burns - Acoustic guitar, bass, quarto, baritone guitar, cello
Catherine Russell, Josette Newsam, Marc Anthony Thompson - Backing vocals
The Southside Horns: Jacob Valenzuela, Martin Wenk - Trumpets


When I first heard Lizz Wright - as a guest on Joe Sample's 2002 album The Pecan Tree - I was pleased to welcome a new jazz vocalist. With her own first CD (Salt), Lizz Wright reinforced my hopes for her in the jazz field. Yet her next album (Dreaming Wide Awake) seemed to take her in a different direction - away from jazz and closer to soul or folk music. She sounded more like a singer-songwriter and less like a jazz vocalist.

This new album continues in the same direction. Lizz helped to write two-thirds of the 12 songs and they all mix influences from gospel, blues, soul, folk and country but seldom jazz. The predominant rhythm on many tracks is an unsubtle thudding backbeat instead of a more subtle jazz rhythm Perhaps Lizz Wright was always a soul singer rather than a jazz performer but I find it slightly disappointing. At least Lizz still has a superb voice and she uses it to get plenty of emotion out of the songs. And if she is classifiable as a soul singer, she shows up by contrast how mediocre some other vocalists are - like the overrated Amy Winehouse.

The album certainly fulfils Lizz Wright's aim of going back to her roots in the music she heard as a child, growing up in rural Georgia. Her own compositions (mostly collaborating with Toshi Reagon) have a personal conviction which is attractive. And the four other songs represent some of those early influences, such as Ike and Tina Turner in Ike's rhythm-and-bluesy I Idolize You, and the gospel intensity of Sweet Honey in the Rock's Hey Mann. There is a strong country-music feel on several tracks, with country-style guitar on Hey Mann and When I Fall - and Lizz apparently salutes country singer Patsy Cline on the final track, Strange. I say "apparently" because that track is blank on my copy of the CD!

This album is not what I hoped for, but I shall probably have to resign myself to the fact that Lizz Wright is not the jazz performer I thought she was. Nevertheless, she is still a remarkable singer who deserves stardom whatever path she takes.

Tony Augarde

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