FOLK/COUNTRY/BLUES SINGER-SONGWRITER-MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST, LISA MEDNICK POWELL, RETURNS WITH
“BLUE BOOK”, HER FIRST ALBUM IN 16 YEARS
When asked about working with singer/songwriter/musician Lisa Mednick Powell on his 1999 album Crusades Of The Restless Knights, acclaimed singer/songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard told “No Depression”, “Her songs are just cool and important. “I really respect her writing.” Powell’s debut solo album, Artifacts Of Love, which was released in 1994, earned media praise as “a dark, swirling gumbo” (Utne Reader), “richly evocative” (Austin-American Statesman) and “…artful songcraft…” (Rolling Stone). Her follow up album, Semaphore, was released eight years later in 2002 and was described by “Amazon.com”as “…some of the prickliest, most emotionally unsettling material this side of Lucinda Williams. Her vocal lilt…belies the music’s dark thematic undertow, through songs that evoke life’s fragility and finitude.” Now, sixteen years later, she is proud to announce the official release of her self-produced third solo album, “Blue Book.
Although recorded recently, Powell says that the songs on the new record are connected to all of the songs on her previous albums and the main concepts stay the same across decades. “I did take my time releasing another album after ‘Semaphore’, but the passage of sixteen years does not feel as long to me as it might seem to others. In the interim, I have kept busy! In addition to writing music, I earned a Master’s degree at the State University of New York. Someone once told me ‘you move through the world more slowly than other people.’ I am not sure what he meant, but I think he was right.”
Recorded in the California High Desert and in New Orleans with husband bassist Kip Powell, and a few old talented friends including Tommy Malone, Victoria Williams, Alison Young, Danny Frankel, and Greg Leisz, “Blue Book” is a musical throwback of sorts — a complete album experience marked by quiet grace, thoughtful craft and performance, and impressionistic lyrics. Powell says, “Making ‘Blue Book’ was certainly a labor of love-and not only because my wonderful husband Kip played bass and co-wrote some of the material. In 2014, I started going back to New Orleans and working with brilliant musicians (people who also happen to be dear friends) I knew from my time there in the late 80s. While “Artifacts of Love” was recorded and mixed all in one session at a studio in Austin, “Blue Book” was recorded a few songs at a time in various studios in various geographical locations. I was honored to have these musicians work with me. All of them did great work in supporting the songs. I have always tried to record songs in such a way that they evoke the same emotion with or without the lyrics. The music should carry emotion just as much as words do. Everyone who worked on this album really shared that concept.”
One of the highlights of “Blue Book” is the track “To The Wilderness”. “I started the song a long time ago and finally finished it when I needed one more tune for ‘Blue Book'”, Powell says. “It is basically about alienation and passivity in the face of evil. The ‘you’ in this song is not really any person, but the concept of caring about what happens to other people. If one goes out to a spiritual wilderness and only survives or exists without regard to how his or her behavior might affect others, then he or she is engaging in dangerous passivity. That is, not committing any crime, but letting crimes occur without raising a voice to stop them.”
Here’s a link to stream “To The Wilderness”:
From studying classical piano at age seven, and a musical education that includes studying saxophone with Charles Neville and keyboards with jazz pianist John Malachi, to playing in punk bands in Washington, D.C. and New York City (“A favorite activity was throwing empty beer bottles against the basement wall of CBGBs between sets”), Powell’s background also includes living in New Orleans for five years performing in clubs and bars and playing with reggae band Exuma and original rock ensemble the Song Dogs; moving to Austin (lured by the work of Townes Van Zandt and other Texas music icons) and finding a home in the music scene, in addition to touring the world with various artists; and living and working in New Mexico and Los Angeles, Powell has been around the musical block. As a keyboard player, accordionist, and saxophonist, she has worked live and in the studio with numerous acclaimed artists such as Earl King, The Chills, Alejandro Escovedo, Juliana Hatfield, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and James McMurtry, among many others.
Although she may take her time between albums, the results are worth waiting for. Of “Blue Book” Powell says, “Every song is a soundtrack that swirls around profoundly dark and truthful lyrics. The songs take the listener on a winding road straight to the heart of the matter.”