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Lizz Wright: Dreaming Wide Awake

Hands down, my favorite female singer of the 1980s and ’90s was British post-punk darling Tracey Thorn, Ben Watt’s velvet-voiced musical (and life) partner in Everything But the Girl. I consider their Idlewild, from 1988, the single most accomplished pop album of its day. With Thorn now in semiretirement, I’ve worried her voice might be forever silenced, and doubted as satisfying a replacement could ever be found. Until, that is, I heard this eminently worthy sophomore disc from Georgia’s Lizz Wright.

Wright resembles Thorn most of all on her wistful, self-penned title track, the tender reading of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and sweetly urgent cover of “Get Together,” The Youngbloods’ mid-’60s plea for global peace, love and understanding. But the parallel is as much visceral as it is aural. Like Thorn’s honey-dipped authoritativeness, Wright’s soul-jazz lilt-soft as peach fuzz yet iron-sturdy-is the musical equivalent of a protective hug from a keenly empathetic friend. Also, just as Thorn and Watt were so effortlessly in tune with one another that it was impossible to know where one ended and the other began, Wright and her brace of ace players-guitarist Chris Bruce, bassist David Piltch, drummer Earl Harvin and keyboardist/background vocalist Glenn Patscha, plus a sterling assortment of guests- provide solid proof that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Originally Published