Blues Bytes

March 2005

line.jpg (778 bytes)

Lisa PhenixLisa Phenix’s debut CD, Homegrown, sounds anything but in production value, but it may describe her music in a way. She clarifies it as “homegrown mating music.” This is not a blues disc but Ms. Lisa (aka Silly Little Mama) sent Blues Bytes this release for review from her hometown Sacramento, and it’s so extraordinary that it warrants attention. I’m not an expert in the “Americana” category of music, but that’s what another reviewer called it. I have to trust in Lisa’s own bio notes that it’s a mixture of folk, rhythm and blues, jazz and Grateful Dead. Personally I’d omit the “rhythm and blues” description and replace it with “country/western,” as in Hank Williams. She might be called a singer/songwriter/guitarist, and it would be in the acoustic lyrical sense. She wrote everything on the disc. The first exceptional attribute of the CD from note one is the recorded sound quality. Producers Lisa Phenix, Scott Reams and Michael Roe know their stuff. The next high mark is in her band musicianship. Twin guitars, occasional keys, rhythm section with mandolin and percussion round the sound. Electricity is mixed in and After the production and musicians I’d say Lisa’s voice jumps out next. It’s clear and pure, mid-high in range, and I can’t think of who she sounds like. She names Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha as influences but in no way is she them. Maybe ‘70s Joni Mitchell would be closer and I’m still way off the mark. Allison Kraus? Gwen Stefani without the grit? I give up. Photo graphics are artistic but not the central character of the album. “Lazy Daisy May” starts off subtly introducing the sound and the voice, while “Chocolate Love” has good chord structure. “Losin’ Your Good Woman Blues” is blues in name only, and here is where things get so simply interesting. The electric guitar solo is played partially backwards, as in the tape reel recording in reverse. Reminds me of an old Beatles trick. How do they do that digitally these days? “Good Man” is satisfying rockin’ in medium tempo, electric guitar solo outstanding. By “Good Lovin’ Baby” you’ve got super country crossover potential, even though that’s not what “Americana” is about. “Bad Blues” is not actually blues; the group Southern Culture On The Skids comes to mind. “Silly Little Mama” might be Hank Sr. trans-sexed doing rockabilly. “Peace of Mind” conjures up plaintive Emmylou Harris, and “Irie’s Song” is plain old album rock at its finest, Lisa’s gem-cut, honey-dripping voice like an eagle in flight. “Patience” is an oft-told prose of words featuring Sacramento group Mumbo Gumbo’s accordionist Steve Stizzo sitting in. “Cockadoodle Do” wraps the project, a two-beat blues with tremelo guitar. The only advice I’d have for Silly Little Mama, if she wants more attention drawn to her top-caliber voice, is to record the next album with crappy audio and use lesser-talented musicians.

---Tom Coulson

Website and music © 2007 Lisa Phenix. All Rights Reserved.
Web site design by Dave Baldwin