Lisa Biales has a marvel of a voice - clear and sweet, as pure as mountain air. And when she's matched with the right material, suited to the crystalline delivery she's best at, she's absolutely delightful.
Biales has tried her hand at a number of styles over the years. Always rootsy, she's released a children's album and a collection of originals backed by violin and cello. Her last outing, a sunny and buoyant outing with backing from the Paris Blues band, was primarily piano-driven. Here she teams with producers EG Kight and Paul Hornsby for a stab at a more contemporary, guitar-based sound.
The results are a little uneven. As wonderful a singer as Biales is, her voice simply doesn't seem to lend itself to dark and dangerous. So when she sings, with neither purr nor growl, "You make me do bad things," or "So if I'm a bad girl / Well I don't wanna be good," she's not entirely convincing.
Yet on songs that suit a more traditional approach - for lack of a better term, a more 'old-fashioned' style of singing - Biales is simply wonderful. "Graveyard Dead Blues" (one of several tunes co-written by Kight and Tom Horner, this one with credit to Biales as well), "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," "In My Girlish Days," "Peach Packin' Mama," and "Black & White Blues" all work nicely with Biales' innately sunny disposition and delivery.
The title track falls somewhere in the middle, a contemporary composition courtesy of Kight and Horner that doesn't really require much grit. But on "Sad Sad Sunday" and "Trouble With A Capital "T"," both also coincidentally co-written by Kight and Horner, Biales' phrasing seems less natural, more contrived. (On the latter she sounds almost apologetic rather than defiant).
The band is just fine throughout, with Tommy Talton's absolutely stellar guitar work a highlight, along with some tasteful harmonica fills from Pat Bergeson. Kight adds harmony vocals to a handful, her voice adding a welcome bit of gravel here and there.
Some songs require a bit of grit, a hint of menace, to be truly effective. Biales is blessed indeed - that voice! - and there are some truly wonderful tunes here. But her talents seem best directed to material where she's not called upon to sound tough and threatening. This particular collection is a bit of a mixed bag.