Monday, February 15, 2010 ... 3:51 PM
Wanting to hear something new, sometime around Thanksgiving last year, for a few weeks I awakened my old sleeping eMusic membership, and clicking though recommendations and member lists and free-associatin' links, I ran across this recent EP, Why You Runnin', by this singer called Lissie. I listened to a couple of samples. It was the Hank Williams cover that hooked me. And once I had listened to the rest of these tunes, I was good and caught.
She is Lissie Maurus, from Rock Island, Illinois, based now in Los Angeles. I'd guess she's around twenty-three years old, but that is just a guess. Her Facebook fan page has 2,263 fans, which, while not Lady Gaga, makes her a sight more fanned than plenty of better-established artists I've added on the FB. She's a go-getter, you can just tell. There's a palpable fire in her singing and in her stage presence. She is earnest -- emphatically, sometimes painfully. You get the feeling that she could get hurt, way out there like that. You watch her because you like her voice, and because she's ridiculously photogenic, but also because you sort of worry for her. It wouldn't be hard, you think, for someone to lead her down the wrong path -- and not necessarily with bad intentions -- and with all that momentum, all that propulsion that's just built into her personality, she could find herself, in a hurry, way down at the end of a road she didn't ever mean to be on. You sort of want to pray for her safe arrival as a mature artist. Or maybe that's just me.
I don't always like the raspy voiced singers. I don't like Concrete Blonde. Something about Lissie's rasp though really snags me. It feels like how Bob Dylan described Roscoe Holcomb -- an untamed sense of control. There's an exactness to her rasp, but as well as she seems to know her voice, as carefully phrased as her readings are, sometimes she does lose her grip on the reins, and that voice runs away with her. Listen here, to her tune "Everywhere I Go," on this Daytrotter session. All goes as rehearsed until the bridge at about 2:20, when she reaches for an improvised falsetto, trips and tumbles. She doesn't seem to know that she's lost control. She leans into the fall, she puts all her weight behind this misstep, she owns it -- and her broken melody achieves an effect of emotional bareness that PJ Harvey and Portishead have spent their careers practicing for. This is what I mean about Lissie's painful earnestness. About how you could worry for her. Even though she doesn't really sing about anything yet, her voice is enough for now, her medium message enough until she does find something to write about. You don't just listen to her, you listen for her. You are impressed, but you flinch. Does she know how naked she sounds up there? Did she mean to fall down like that? Was that real? Is she OK?
ceinture en cuir prada
Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas
(Novello Festival Press, April 2008)
includes my essay, "Link Wray"
Flop Eared Mule
The Celestial Monochord
Dig and Be Dug in Return
Modern Acoustic Magazine / Blog
The Old, Weird America
Honey, Where You Been So Long?
The Greensboro Review
Fried Chicken and Coffee
Mungo (This was the blog of my friend, the late Cami Park. Miss you, Cami.)
Cat and Girl
Film Freak Central