Once in a great while, a CD arrives out of the blue with no fanfare and proceeds to blow your mind at first listen. For me, Every Second in Between is one of those rarities. New York-born and raised singer-songwriter-guitarist Lili Añel, who now calls Philadelphia home, has been plying and perfecting her jazz- and folk-tinged craft for some 30 years. Her wisdom and experience are the foundation for her music. Most of it revolves around the concepts of independence, empowerment and one’s strong roots – in the grounding sense.
There is a hint of Nina Simone and Joan Armatrading in her vocal approach – and that isn’t a bad thing. She enhances her stories with a percussive approach to the guitar that she credits to her Black and Cuban heritage. The only tunes she didn’t write in full on Every Second in Between are the ballad “So Far Away,” which was co-written with her identical twin sister, Barbara Añel, and her cover of the Fitz Rotter-written, Nina Simone-associated “That’s All I Want From You.” Bottom line, these vignettes focus on the quest for true love – with self-assurance and little tolerance for gamesmanship. The Simone-related title is a great summation of it – and Añel’s pieces are similarly developed. The superbly crafted “So Far Away” yearns for a deep connection with a ideal lover, someone who hasn’t come to the same realization – and may never do so. Grammy-winning producer and engineer winner Glenn Barratt produced this gem and plays guitar on three tracks.
Standouts among the dozen-plus musicians backing Añel include Joel Bryant on electronic keyboards and B3, Mayra Casales on percussion and John Conahan on piano. Every Second in Between is her fifth CD as a leader. She made her debut on the 1994 Palmetto release Laughed Last, which she re-issued in 2006 with the addition of three live concert bonus tracks. On this new disc, we hear Añel in full control.