Not sure how Lisa Biales does it, but she continues to produce fantastic, throwback R&B that sounds downright effortless.
One of the finest blues albums of the year comes from Ohio native Lisa Biales, and her latest release, The Beat of My Heart (Big Song Music). One key (and often overlooked) element in the genre is the sound, and she and her producer, Tom Braunagel, nail it. Especially good are the drums, which are upfront, but not too clean.
The album opens with a rousing turn on Mabel Scott’s “Disgusted,” featuring a fantastic sax solo. Then comes “What a Man,” an under appreciated Laura Lee song sampled in the 1990’s by Salt ’N’ Pepa. Here, Biales gives it a soulful delivery over a funky rhythm track, augmented by horns and slinky guitar.
I love the snare sound on “Be My Husband,” which has a dirty groove and lots of empty space for Biales to work. The organ and soprano sax elevate the track too. “Messing Around With the Blues” features great piano and stinging guitar; it sounds like it was recorded in a jazz club.
“Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” is a great gospel stomper with a Hammond organ upfront in the mix, while “Wild Stage of Life” is a slow burn, classic blues.
Through modern technology, Biales actually duets with her late mother, Alberta Roberts, on “Crying Over You.” Her mom sings the first verse, transferred from a 1947 78 rpm disc, before Biales joins for the second verse – you can certainly tell that they’re related.
Saving the best for last, “Brotherly Love,” is an appropriate song for the current political climate. Here, Biales is absolutely ravishing, giving the track a sultry delivery coupled with Hammond organ.
One of the finest releases of 2017. —Tony Peters