Lisa Biales | 'Just Like Honey' | CD Review

Unyieldingly pleasant, that’s what it is. Lisa Biales’ “Just Like Honey” is nearly the perfect companion to a rainy day on the couch, a sunny day in the garden, a road trip or a night on the town. It’s the record’s strength and maybe its weakness, too. That depends when you’ve got the blues.

The sixth album on her own Big Song Music label, “Just Like Honey” covers 11 Americana and blues tunes and includes a co-write and two originals. Biales has a great voice (on-point pitch) that naturally grabs hold of each song in a way that an American Idol judge might call “making it her own.”

Lisa’s own bio describes a smile when she sings. It’s true. There’s a smile on those lips, and the intentionality of her spirit-lifting vocal performance also lifts the heart. It’s beautiful. Yet, what I don’t hear in that voice is the growl of loss. Her voice is strong and clear, but when she sings “I’ve got the blues so bad,” there’s no ache. Is she setting fire to anything?

As for the album’s musical performance – wow. This is a badass troupe, and I can only imagine the sizzle in those recording sessions. Produced by EG Kight, the album was recorded, mixed and co-produced by Paul Hornsby of the Marshall Tucker Band in his Macon, Ga., studio. Players include guitarist Tommy Talton, drummer Bill Stewart, fiddler/mandolinist David Blackmon (Jerry Reed, Widespread Panic, Blueground Undergrass), singer EG Kight, Paul Hornsby on keys and others.

The collection showcases Biales’ take on singers that were early influences – Bonnie Raitt (“Give It Up”), Etta James (“Damn Your Eyes”), Ma Rainey (“Yonder Come the Blues”) and more.

The honey rolls along sweetly enough, and for the most part this comes off as a solid, respectable covers album. But there are some truly stellar moments worthy of the band that was assembled in sweaty Macon, Ga., to make magic happen. The Biales/Kight co-write, “Gypsy Woman Blues,” showcases Talton’s moaning, groaning slide guitar. Biales’ “Peaches,” dripping with peach juice and innuendo, causes Paul Bergeson to straight up blaze on the mouth harp. And Marshall Coats’ bass solo on “Give It Up” may be the album’s musical linchpin.

Lisa Biales has a rich musical heritage, her original songs having been heard on TV and over the international airwaves. She’s no novice. That is why I hope she finds a way to break the blues ceiling without relying too heavily on licensing. Her power has got to be in her performance. When she finds her howl, there will be no stopping her.

Check lisabiales.com for dates and info.

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