wed 22/05/2024

Album: Lizz Wright - Shadow | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lizz Wright - Shadow

Album: Lizz Wright - Shadow

Brilliant album from superlative vocalist

Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright has established herself, over a number of steadfastly excellent albums, as one of the very best vocalists of her generation.

Not so long after a gripping live album recorded in Berlin Holding Space (2022), her latest offering shines with all the brilliance and originality she brings to her own cross-genre mix of jazz, soul, gospel, country and folk.

What holds it together is her deep contralto voice, as distinctive in its own way as the sound of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Horn, or Aretha Franklin. There’s a combination of delicacy and force, vulnerability and bravado, that’s instantly recognisable, without ever being predictable. Her roots are in gospel – and that shows: this is music that rouses the spirit, without ever overdoing it, it’s the coolness of her delivery, the ‘less is more’ approach to emotion that ensures that her song evokes soul and love like few others of her time. 

In a tradition that goes all the back to West Africa, a territory of deep musical culture that has nourished generation after generation of musicians whose ancestors were enslaved, Lizz Wright, combines love, both earthly and spiritual. There is sensual seduction here, tender longing, indistinguishable from a humble yet heartfelt call to the spirit. There has never been a conflict within her, such as tormented the likes of Sam Cooke or Al Green, the cleavage between music dedicated to God and sounds that supposedly serve the devil. She navigates seamlessly between the love of the divine and desire for an earthly lover, much as the Sufis do in India, Pakistan or Turkey. The intoxication – and there is plenty of that in Lizz Wright’s music – lies beyond duality, and is charged with transcendent emotion.

The new album is graced – as ever with Wright – with very well-chosen musicians, and a producer, the guitarist Chris Bruce, who knows how to match musical sensibilities to Wright’s superlative gifts. Such a brilliant idea to add the violin of two musicians of South Indian origin – Arun Ramamurthy and Trina Basu, some earthy vocals from Angélique Kidjo or the rock solid jazz-funk bass of Wright’s friend Meshell Ndegeocello. Deantoni Parks is the perfect choice as a drummer, weaving gentle and imaginative beats that never intrude but add a richness to the overall texture.

This is an album that offers a series of delights: from folk-orientated covers such as Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’s “I Made a Lover’s Prayer”, or the close-to perfect and respectfully classic evocation of Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate On You”. to the near ecstatic soulfulness of “Circling” or the quiet but heart-stirring spiritual feel of “Root of Mercy”.   This may be a low-key album, stripped-down, in terms of tempo and volume, but this tempered approach produces music of incredible power, the power to fill the heart with emotion and joy.

 

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Y'all be giving out 100's like hotcakes, do y'all actually think the ratings of these out at all?

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