We’ve grown used to female guitar heroes in recent years (and praise the gods for that) and I have long championed the likes of Ana, Joanne, Samantha, Erja, Chantel to name but a few…well here is a bass guitar hero to join the ranks of Tal, Suzi, Gaye and Tina, again, to name but a few.
So, in case you aren’t aware of Lisa Mann, prepare to add her name to that list: Lisa hails from Portland, Oregon and has so far managed to avoid all of the Wessen that seem to occupy every corner of that city…one day, I will get a life; honest!
She names Etta James, Koko Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Little Milton amongst her influences and, from that you will begin to appreciate how her bass playing is blues based…from the uprights of old to the four and six string bass guitars of today. She favours a beast of a six string model (a Tobias Killer B if you’re interested) and this gives her the ability to add much more complex chord work than a standard bass allows. (As a bassist in a previous life, the six string was the only way I could replicate the Andy Fraser sound and he only had four, but he was one of the most innovative bassists ever.
This latest release (and apologies Lisa, for the delay) is an EP that may have only five songs but somehow has a completeness that rivals her previous four full length albums.
Title track, Old Girl, opens the proceedings with a country styled approach warmed nicely by the guitar and Hammond work as Lisa supplies a strong vocal and nifty bass line. The equally and aptly countrified guitar solo is very lyrical and mesmerising. It’s The Monkeys or Me is apparently based on a true story of a girl in competition with her boyfriend’s pet monkeys! Set against the r’n’b rhythms, this amusing story supplies some clever guitar work and a catchy chorus…listen to the drumming too as a jungle feel is slotted in rather neatly: the walking bass line also gives the guitar solo room to excel and has a suitably 50s r’n’b feel. Everybody’s Making Money hints at the difficulty musicians have these days in earning from their hard work (hence my constant bleating about buying from the artist where possible rather than streaming). Another mild country feel washes throughout and, make sure you listen to the very clever bass line behind it all as well as the carefully picked and melodic guitar solo. Next up is Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s 1938 song That’s All, which I first came across on the wonderful Ry Cooder’s Into The Purple Valley album from 1972, but reworked and retitled as Desolation Blues. Here, Lisa uses the original as her root and does a good job of bringing it up to date without taking anything from the Sister’s version. The true blues origins make this one my favourite…especially the guitar and bass work. The final track, Around Here, has some great lyrics as you sympathise and empathise with the unnamed people referred too: “they may not be famous, but we will remember them around here.” Set to a gentle, swaying gospel like soundtrack, it actually works well with the backing vocals and, again, the standard of musicianship being so high.
Bluesdoodles rating: Four Doodle Paws – Not quite as much blues as I was hoping for but this is a high quality blues infused EP that, if you don’t know Lisa, is a damn good starting point. She is a very good bassist and has surrounded herself with fine musicians that fill every song with something special to listen out for.
1. Old Girl
2. It’s The Monkeys or Me
3. Everybody’s Making Money
4. That’s All
5. Around Here
Lisa Mann: vocals, bass
Jason Thomas: guitar
Michael Ballash: drums
Dave Melyan: drums
Louis Pain: Hammond
LaRhonda Steele, Arietta Ward, Sonny Hess and Brian Foxworth: backing vocalists
Recorded by Kevin Hahn at Portland’s Primal Studio and produced by Kevin and Lisa.