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Lisa Lauren: My Own Twist

A couple of years back, Wesla Whitfield noted during an online interview that, “I rarely sing songs by contemporary songwriters. I feel that I don’t interpret them as well as lots of other people do, and that my real forte is doing older tunes.” One of those “other people” she was referring to might well have been Lisa Lauren, the stunning Chicago-based vocalist who made an impressive debut in 1999 with What Comes Around. Devoted almost exclusively to jazz interpretations of rock ‘n’ roll classics, the album paid loving homage to the likes of Lennon, McCartney, Goffin and King and provided an ideal showcase for Lauren’s smoky sound, reminiscent of Rickie Lee Jones with a hint of Loretta Lynn pluck. It also included a couple of Lauren originals that clearly suggested that she, too, is a contemporary songwriter to be reckoned with. Now, with the arrival of her self-produced follow-up, My Own Twist, she’s taken the exact opposite approach. Of the 10 selections included here, there’s one Beatles tune, a single Carole King cover and eight self-penned originals. Both covers are as fresh and inventive as their predecessors. King’s “Sweet Seasons” swings with a country and western lilt, while “Here Comes the Sun” unfolds with a romantic urgency not evident on George Harrison’s more laid-back original. Among the new material, standouts include “A Shame,” a saucily sarcastic flip of the bird to a stale lover (made all the better by David Sanborn’s guest appearance on tenor sax), the soothingly affirmative “Life Goes On” and a dandy, rhythmic put-down with the delightfully vivid title “It Sucks to Be You.” Evocative stuff.

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