Lissy Walker – Wonderland
Released – September 23, 2014
As intimate as a whisper in your ear, Lissy Walker’s “Wonderland” is a sweetly swinging charmer, delivering on the early 20th century mood the publicist’s pen promises.
Admittedly a muddler of genres, Ms. Walker manages to sound country one moment, modern alt-something the next. But hard to put into a box also means unique, right down to the choice of tunes on this disc – from 1918’s melancholy “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” to 1970s folk-rock “I Wish I Was A Fool For You,” written by Richard Thompson, a restrained arrangement that fits the lyric much better than the over-produced version Sandy Denny delivered in 1977.
Alternately, there’s nothing at all restrained about Ms. Walker’s cover of Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?),” which reveals Ms. Walker’s theatrical background through a display of longing that could leave you wanting a cigarette when it’s over.
That’s one of my favorites from this set – along with “Isn’t It Romantic?” the Rodgers and Hart classic, once called “…the perfect song,” which opens with just the backing of Scott Nygaard on guitar, and then builds with strings to a bigger finish. Backing musicians are all first rate – in addition to Mr. Nygaard, Jon Evans on bass, Steven Bernstein on trumpet and John R. Burr on piano.
They’re joined by guest artists Carla Kihlstedt on violin and Ben Goldberg on clarinet. At times, as good as they all are, the recording mix can nearly overpower Ms. Walker’s delicate voice. I would have turned ‘em down a little.
But that’s a small quibble with this hand-crafted work of art, a fine addition to any collection of jazz vocalists, and is very highly recommended.