Evenly split between standards and originals, When September Comes showcases Lisa Michel’s songwriting and performing talents. Her compositions are musically and emotionally challenging, outfitting jagged melodies with insightful lyrics capturing the anxieties of children (“Perfect Dancer,” “Slides”) and adults (“Hard to Love.”) Her presentations of this highly personal material are more successful than her versions of familiar songs, which tend to be somewhat contrived-“Where Is Love?” taken at a frenetic pace that makes nonsense of Lionel Bart’s wistful lyric-and emphasize her tendency to grow shrill in her upper range, a problem reinforced by the singer’s choice of a soprano sax to supplement accompanist and co-arranger David Berkman’s lively piano trio. The charming voice and bass “On a Slow Boat to China” suggests that, when relaxed, Michel can handle vintage material as effectively as her own rather neurotic compositions.
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