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Sheila Landis/Rick Matle: Driven

Listening to the Sheila Landis’ latest recording with guitarist Rick Matle, I’m reminded of Simon Rodia, the architectural genius who spent three decades creating the fabled Watts Towers in Los Angeles. For it is that same entrepreneurial energy and ingenuity-the ability to build marvelous musical sculptures using whatever materials are at hand-that seems to drive the incredibly prolific (20 plus self-produced discs since 1981), Detroit-based singer-percussionist Sheila Landis.

Exhibiting the same assured yet easygoing professionalism as fellow Midwesterner Ann Hampton Callaway, she can swing through Goodman (“Don’t Be That Way”) and Ellington (“Caravan”), wander wordlessly through a gently scatted “Fool on the Hill” and unearth the sexual heat hidden within Hank Williams’ “Hey, Good Lookin’.” But Landis impresses most when, never straying too far from her Michigan roots, she serves up such delights (co-penned with Mantle) as “Brotherhood of the Wheel” (a nod to truckers constructed to sound like an 18-wheeler snaking its way through local burgs), “Ma’s Coffee Pot” (about a roadside waitress who’s eager to vend more than just eggs and toast) and the deeply personal “She’s in My Bones,” a sweet, warm hug of an homage to her grandmother.

Originally Published