Ladies Edition Linda Gail Lewis, Mary Fahl, More
In this edition of RockPile we salute music made by women and new releases from Linda Gail Lewis, Mary Fahl, Chastity Brown, Alice Austin and Susie Suh.
Linda Gail Lewis - Early Sides 1963-1973
Linda Gail Lewis is the sister of the legendary piano pounder Jerry Lee Lewis and she worked alongside her famous sibling both in the studio and on stage. In fact Jerry Lee joins her on two of these vintage tracks, singing on the rollicking "Baby (You've Got What it Takes)" and the classic country of "Before the Snow Flies" where Jerry Lee also plays acoustic guitar. Otherwise Lewis rocks her way through cuts like "CC Rider," complete with raunchy sax riffs from Luke Wright, the sassy "Ain't Nothin' Shakin' (But the Leaves on the Trees)," also with more greasy sax, a 1966 take on the oft-covered "Jim Dandy" and the heartbreaking "Working Girl." The oldest of these cuts were recorded at the vaunted Sun Studios and the 18-song compilation features famed players like Boots Randolph, Scotty Moore, Charlie McCoy, Reggie Young and Jerry Reed.
Chastity Brown - Sing to the Walls
Brown wrote 100 songs since the release of her last album, 2017's Silhouette of Sirens,
so it must have been quite a task for her to whittle that down to the 10 cuts found here. The effort's opening cut is "Wonderment," an understated cut that begins with a gospel-esque vibe before moving into a soulful pop groove. The cut is perfectly title too as Brown's voice reflects a sense of wonderment, something that can be heard throughout. Cuts like the sublime "Loving the Questions," the post-breakup reflection of "Curiosity" and the chilled-out soul of "Sing to the Walls" all show a kinship to the late great Phoebe Snow. Sharon Van Etten adds harmony vocals to the album's closing number "Gertrude." Besides her wonderful voice, Brown plays multiple instruments here and she wrote or co-wrote all the songs.
Mary Fahl - Can't Get it Out of My Head
Best known for her work with chamber pop outfit October Project in the mid-90s, Fahl here tackles a set of covers by artists that she says were some of her greatest inspirations. The set begins appropriately enough with a take on the Electric Light Orchestra cut that gives the album its title, here performed to a backing of acoustic guitar, drums and gentle orchestration. A version of the Rolling Stones hit "Ruby Tuesday" is included as is a super-dreamy interpretation of the Moody Blues chestnut "Tuesday Afternoon." Some cover choices are not as well-known, like Nick Drake's "River Man" and Richard and Linda Thompson's "The Great Valerio" but they are as nice to listen to as the monster hit "Comfortably Numb" (Pink Floyd) and Neil Young's "Don't Let it Bring You Down." Also featured are takes on Judy Collins, George Harrison and the Mamas and the Papas.
Susie Suh - Invisible Love
Don't be surprised that Suh opens her new album with a brief instrumental called "The Beginning" or that the tune is comprised of sounds made with crystal bowls. The artist has stated that she has long been on an inward-looking quest to get in touch with her emotions and truth, and the sound of crystal bowls can help with meditation and concentration. The album is not, however, an exercise in New Age noodling. The title cut "Invisible Love," while featuring enlightened lyrics, is a bouncy pop tune with a somewhat mysterious yet uplifting vibe. "Best Friend" is delicate pop where Suh displays her gratitude for the love of a special someone while "Over You" is a slow cut with sparse instrumentation and breathy vocals. The album is not too overtly sad but it is noticeable when Suh switches gears a bit to sing the upbeat "Winning Feeling;" with handclaps used to create the rhythm the jazzy cut verges on hip-hop. Yes you can mindlessly listen to this album but more likely it is going to inspire your own inward journey.
Alice Austin - Goodnight Euphoria
Austin opens her second full-length effort with the rhythmic rocker "No Such Thing," a cut that melds Sheryl Crow sweetness with Courtney Love coarseness. Despite a title that hints at rosiness, "Relentless Sunshine" is slow and filled with despair and delivered in a vaguely country-tinged tone that at times recalls the style of Emmylou Harris. "Loveless Waste" on the other hand, which you would expect to be dark, is upbeat and set to a bright melody. "Oxygen" wonders aloud (ominously) about the wellbeing of an apparent ex, "The Neighborhood" features twangy guitar and a western beat as does "The Ward," and as much as Austin sends out lots of enigmatic emotion here, closing track "Saving My Tears" is a straight forward expression of loss. With this record Austin is bound to be the new favorite of lots of listeners.