Lisa Haley is best known as the leader of the Zydekats, a hot Southern California Cajun/zydeco band, and as Queen Ida’s erstwhile fiddler. This is her first recording apart from the Zydekats, and it is a simply marvelous outing that marries the blues, country, zydeco, contemporary gospel and other styles. Haley’s low, rough-edged, highly expressive vocals and head-spinning fiddle chops paint each track a different, appealing color. Keb Mo’s production skills and guest spot on “Rock River” spread icing on the cake.
Haley is a powerful, up-front alto in the spirit of Rosanne Cash or the Indigo Girls. That style suits the music on this disc perfectly, kicking the spice level up a notch. Vocal tracks are overdubbed on several selections, permitting her to craft dense waves of harmony that pull the listener in blissfully. “No $” is a very catchy tune driven by a cheerfully doinging jaw harp; the uilleann pipes give a Celtic cast to “Always Be Your Guide”; and “Zydecosis” threatens to infect everyone with an urge to get on the good foot.
This album is categorized under “Blues” as a matter of convenience, but there is so much more to Haley than a blues shouter or Louisiana fiddle queen. There are some unusual elements on the disc, such as the odd guitar loop on “A Lot To Learn” and the macabre vibe of “Angel in the Backseat.” “Shenandoah,” the only non-original tune here, begins a cappella with long tones, out from which the instruments slowly peek.
Lisa Haley is poised to break out on the roots-music market in a big way, with an assured sense of place and history that wisely informs her artistic decisions. This is an exceptionally well-made album that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. Recommended without reservation.
Personnel: (Collective:) Lisa Haley, vocals, fiddle, mandolin, jaw harp, keyboards, percussion; Keb Mo