and Roberta Flackthey really are that well-written. "These are the songs I want to put out to the world at this time," she says simply. "It's what I wrote. They reflect where I am right now."
I Can See Bliss From Here reflects all the hustle and bustle of Añel's own life: As her bio explains, she's "a New York-born Cuban-African American" who has lived the past decade in Philadelphia, where she befriended pianist Dale Melton
, among others, and a shared ideology of community in music." (Lili and Dale are both identical twins, too.)
"Something to Do" tells the story of how she grew up in Harlem ("I was born and raised in the barrio on 110th Street," she begins) atop a chugging Latin rhythm spiced with horns. Añel then recalls her mother, who worked to support her family six days out of seven and died in her early 50s, and shares a wonderfully self-effacing (not self-pitying) verse about her shaved head and the autoimmune disease Alopecia Areata, which causes hair loss): "I shaved my head bald today. You see, most of my hair had fallen out anyway. And when people laugh at me, I just smile because I believe they're just scared it could be them instead of me."
A song to her son, "The Best Part of Me (Song for Joey)" swims in deceptively deep, shifting musical and emotional currents ("On the day that you were born, my heart melted")a beautiful idea, beautifully played and sung.
But Bliss also lifts Añel's vision to more broad horizons. Her moaning vocal and Tom Hampton's groaning guitar scrape out the raw and ragged, tough as nails "Go Home," a contemporary blues that begins with the story of how she was "written up at work" because she "laughed too loud" but ends with her calling on the heavens to take her home for good. Liner notes by New York Music Hall of Fame Director Robbie Woliver call this "the album's biggest revelation, (is) an infectious field-holler-styled blues lament that takes modern-day work drudgery to another level."
Because this entire set is about carrying on in the face of circumstances that suggest you'd be better off packing it in, "Losing My Faith" might have been this set's title track. Its chorus is this set's most beautiful melody, and frees Añel's voice to float and soar like a songbird. It's a tribute to her creativity and spirit that Lili Añel Can See Bliss From Here.
Track Listing: Climb the Wall; Something to Do; Blindsided; Living for Today; The Best Part of Me (Song for Joey); Go Home; Losing My Faith; Got Me Thinking; Out of Control; This Love is Over; Blindsided #2; Today.
Personnel: Lili Añel: vocals, acoustic guitar, Gretsch electric guitar; Dale Melton: grand piano, Hammond organ, Wulitzer electric piano, Telecaster guitar; Kevin Hanson: lead nylon string guitar; Tom Hampton: Resonator, Fender Jaguar Baritone Custom guitar; Charlie Alletto: guitar; Patrick Hughes: trumpet; David Fishkin: alto saxophone; Steven Gokh: tenor saxophone; Larry Toft: trombone; Bill Zinno: upright bass; Mike Kurman: electric bass; Chico Huff: electric bass; Charlie Patierno: drums; Fred Berman: drums; Ben Wittman: percussion, drums; Yasuyo Kimura: congas, bongos, guiro; Victor Rendon: timbales.