Lisa Mills – I’m Changing (review)

Lisa Mills – I’m Changing (Lisa Mills) review

Gritty and soulful – a great record

We have gotten so used to detached, computer-driven music, that when an honest, earthy record comes along, it can be jarring at first.  Alabama singer Lisa Mills has recorded one such record with I’m Changing.  It’s obvious that this is music recorded with real musicians, all looking at each other in a studio – you can hear the sound of the room when the drummer hits the snare.  And, when Mills opens her mouth to sing – well, get ready to be moved.

The record is a mix of rock and blues, with a little Gospel thrown in for good measure.  It’s Mills versatile singing that holds it all together.  She fronted the legendary Big Brother & the Holding Company for awhile, so it’s not surprising to hear her gritty delivery on “Better Than This.”  But, she imparts an incredible vulnerability on “I’m Changing” – you almost feel like you’re eavesdropping on someone’s breakup conversation.

One of the standout tracks is “I Don’t to Be Happy,” where the next line is “I just wanna be with you.”  Who hasn’t been in a dead-end situation like that before?  Just when you think the record is going to be all downers, here comes the ray of hope in “I Need a Little Sunshine.”  Backed by a slinky Stax-infused guitar, she brings the mood back up again.

This an album that’s good from top to bottom – and the reason is its diversity.  Very few vocalists would allow themselves to stand unaccompanied like she does on the Gospel a capella “Tell Me,” while “The Truth” features a banjo and backwards guitar that borders on psychedelia.  “Take My Troubles,” with its gentle, soulful backing, is another highlight.  The disc closes with Mills’ re-interpretation of Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” a bold move, but one she pulls off effortlessly.  Her version slows the tempo and adds flourish from a slide guitar, helping to put an exclamation point to this fine collection of great songs.  —Tony Peters