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May 2003

Lisa Kirchner
When Lights Are Low
Albany Records

Looking at the cover of When Lights Are Low (Albany) and admiring Lisa Kirchner's all-American elegance, you expect to hear ladylike delicacies done up with vanilla frosting. Instead, out pours this astonishing mix of ash and gravel that combines the talk-sing sophistication of Mabel Mercer with the gutsy appeal of Dee Dee Bridgewater. Kirchner's rusty world-weariness borrows liberally from Billie Holiday, especially on her dusky "You Don't Know What Love Is" and gently bruised "Angel Eyes." Her "Manha de Carnaval," at once mistily reflective and coolly satiated, is sumptuously good. So, too, is a skillfully tempered "I Concentrate on You" that simmers with unfulfilled desire. The biggest surprise, though, is a vibrant reading of Livingston and Evans' somewhat obscure "The Ruby and the Pearl," imbued with that unique sort of cabaret theatricality that defined Mercer's incomparability.

Originally published in May 2003
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