by Constance Tucker
Grace is Lizz Wright’s new album on Concord Records which contains ten tracks, nine covers selected in conjunction with producer and songwriter Joe Henry and one original track co-written with Maia Sharp. Wright’s vocals are as strong as ever and even though she is mainly promoted in the jazz genre, Wright’s vocals especially on this album, has more of a mix of gospel and Americana, with influences of pop and jazz. This makes her the perfect crossover artist, think Diana Krall mixed with Cassandra Wilson but with more gospel and soul. All the songs are presented in a downtempo, relaxed state, more of an introspective style that will lend itself to the perfect background soundtrack or for a tranquil musical experience that will live up to detailed listening in it musical content.
“Barley,” is the opening track, written by husband and wife duo Birds of Chicago. Wright’s voice is rich and focused. Her lower register resonates and her upper register is clear and focused. With acoustic guitar fills, Wright develops the melody. Adding just the right amount of blues and gospel touches and ornaments. The groove is relaxed and does not get in the way of Wright’s singing, in fact, the whole album is a focus on vocals, again taking a more pop approach than jazz, where solos are the focal point.
Wright’s version of “Seems I’m Never Tired of Lovin’ You” is a beautiful ballad. Instrumentally tinged with country overtones, Wright’s vocals are front and center. Her pitch is right on the money and she only uses vibrato sparingly and to emotional effect. Bluesy ornaments are use at the end of her phrases and her control of sliding in and out of notes is outstanding. The country gospel energy is heightened when a full vocal choir joins Wright. Seriously, one could close their eyes and be teleported to any emotional Sunday service in land of humidity and pine trees. She really hits the emotional core on this track.
“All the Way Here,” co-written with Maia Sharp, concludes the list of ten tracks. Wright’s full lower register is used to its fullest for the verse. Her melody is memorable and the lyrics are personal and full of emotions. Her mid and upper register still has that emotional growl that we all have come to know and love. She seems to sing with less blues/gospel ornaments on this track though. Turning in an almost pop radio singer songwriter selection. Is this easy listening, well in a word, yes, but with a lot of depth and presented in a style that will with stand sophisticated listening, which is usually what brings listeners to the jazz genre to start with.