What is a “Belle?” Webster says it is “a beautiful woman at a particular event.” She is also “admired for her beauty and charm.” However, it is her personality that catches my attention. A “Belle” is one who is “powerful, has an artistic flair, and who is a natural entertainer with an infectious exuberance that draws a crowd.” Wow, what a coincidence. That is exactly what one hears when listening to Lisa Biales’s new album, Belle Of The Blues. Essentially, she is the “Belle Of The Ball.”
Going back in time somewhat to 2012 this “strong sultry voice” singer/songwriter released her 8th album entitled Just Like Honey. The album received tremendous reviews including hitting the “Blues, Americana, and Roots Charts at #2, #14, and #13.” Plus, she even caught the eye of Francis Ford Coppola where she was cast in a singer/actor role in the movie Twixt. To add fuel to the fire, Just Like Honey was co-produced by E.G. Kight, better known as the “Georgia Songbird” of the blues, and Paul Hornsby, astounding producer for several gold and platinum albums for artists such as The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels Band, and Greg and Duane Allman’s, The Hour Glass Band.
So when it came time to release Lisa’s ninth album, she once again turned to her “partner in crime,” E.G. Kight, with the added creativity and exceptional piano playing of co-producer Paul Hornsby to record her new album Belle Of The Blues. The formula for Belle Of The Blues was very simple: you need an an awesome singer/songwriter, two seasoned producers, and a back up band consisting of Tommy Talton on guitar, Randall Bramblett on organ and a great jazz fusion drummer, Bill Stewart, on percussion. Very simple, be an artist who can stand on her own, then surround yourself with some of the best artists and producers past and present.
After listening to her new album, it is safe to say Lisa brings a lot of emotion and attitude to the table. In her own words, she stated Belle Of The Blues is “down home contemporary acoustic blues music,” and “guitar driven.” “It’s a place where I can connect to an audience” with her “sadness” of the blues.
For example, in “Sad Sad Sunday,” we hear Lisa convey in her somber, melancholy voice a very familiar situation for many of us: having a weekend romance, being forced to wait, weekend to weekend. But finally, the anticipation she dreams of in her voice we hear, “I wanna hear my baby whisper from this Sunday on I’m here to stay no more sad sad Sunday;” but reality sets in ending the number in sadness. The acoustic guitar of E.G. Kight adds to the lonesomeness and empty feeling to this song.
In another piece, Lisa really sings the blues in “Mask.” Once again, in her sultry voice, you can just feel the hopelessness. I love this piece. I can’t help but hear a little Lena Horne here. The lyrics are so real as we put on our game face, trying to hid the pain. What is interesting is in the first two stanzas she sings about putting on her “mask and smile.” But in the end, she simply sings, “I’ll put up my glass take off my mask and cry.” I guess the alcohol and mask can only do so much when trying to give a theatrical performance. The intro on the guitar is a great attention getter, and sets the mood.
As I mentioned in the beginning “Belles” are very powerful. Here is a perfect example in “Graveyard Dead.” She is very accommodating in the beginning, letting her “soon to be” know what she is capable in doing for him. However, there is another side to the coin. She also gives due warning offering a weapons inventory at her disposable including a shot gun, frying pan, and broom stick. Not sure what she could do with a broom stick, but this writer is afraid to ask. This particular piece was co-written by Lisa, E.G. Kight, and Tom Horner. Once again in this number, Tommy Talton did an awesome job on the Dobro with the accompaniment from E.G. on the acoustic guitar. As Lisa sings, it almost sounds as if she is communicating with the guitars going back and forth.
To add to Belle Of The Blues some timeless numbers, Lisa gives us a little something special in “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” and “Black and White Blues.” I have to admit, these two pieces are number one on my list. She does a great job, paying tribute to one of her favorites, Bessie Smith, in “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.” Listening to Bessie on YouTube, she would be very proud of Lisa’s rendition. Once again love the piano of Paul Hornsby. Listening to him I seem to hear somewhat of a “barroom” sound that adds a little nostalgia to the piece, nicely done. Lisa also sings her best with “Black And White Blues,“ written by Dalton Roberts as a tribute to Bessie Smith.
Finally, need to to touch base on one more tune, the album opener of Belle Of The Blues. In her opening piece, a somewhat Texas Blues dance piece, is a perfect album opener, much lighter and upbeat. The harmonies of E.G. and Lisa almost sound as if they are one. To add, the song features Pat Bergeson on harmonica, who did an outstanding performance giving the piece a “jukebox” flavor as the lyrics said “She keeps people dancing for romancing out on the juke joint floor.” Paul Hornsby and Tommy Talton did an excellent job on the piano and guitar as well respectfully. The song is very well produced. While listening to this track, Lisa is singing more to herself as she sings, “when the spotlight shines she gets in the mood, her eyes twinkle in time to the groove. She’s the belle of the Blues.”
Belle Of The Blues has so much to give to the blues enthusiast. There are so many players on this project. It is obvious, Lisa and E.G. Kight work well together. They really do not need to hear that from me, it goes without saying. They are as one writer stated, “blues sisters.” In fact, they have formed their own duo, The Peach Pickin’ Mamas. The message seems to be if it works, keep working it. Why mess with perfection? I expect to hear more of Lisa and E.G. as they continue to work together. However, it has to be said, even without the prodigious Kight, there still will be Lisa Biales, standing tall on her own two legs. Her “clear-as-a-bell singing voice” resonates. In 2012, she gave us Just Like Honey. In 2013, she gave us Belle Of The Blues. I am looking forward to what Lisa might give us in 2014. One footnote, Lisa will be appearing in August 2014 at the Cincinnati Blues Fest if you would like to catch her live. Hopefully, there will be some studio time in the near future. Regardless, this little “buckeye” has given us a great album in Belle Of The Blues. I think as time goes by, we will be hearing more and more from her with and without E.G. Kight.
That is how it goes. This is Lisa Biales, and she is the Belle Of The Blues.