Not the Bermuda version: The Triangle in question is the fourth release from singer and guitar player Lisa Mills and is her geographic influences…namely Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Jackson. Be warned, however, you will get lost in this blues triangle as Lisa uses her considerable vocal talents backed by a plethora of talent local to each location, to weave together a fourteen track travelogue that calls in on blues, gospel, R’n’B and soul along the way.
This 2020 album was recorded in the three cities with noted producer Fred Mollin too and each song has a connection to them and to Lisa.
It all kicks off with a piano free version of Little Richard’s Greenwood, Mississippi. Straightaway we are treated to the powerful and emotive vocals backed by an excellent band with total empathy for the original, but with a superb bluesier bias with swelling horns and a tasty, classy wah’d guitar. A Wilbur Terrell / Marcus Daniel / Clarence Carter song is next with Tell Mama; known best from Etta James version, this one is, frankly, superb…guitar and Hammond solos with an upbeat bluesy backing and Lisa doing every note justice. Soul creeps in nicely on another Clarence Carter song (this time written for him by Carl Puttnam and Michael Lawrence Dunphy) which has a languidly but still bounces nicely. Billy Foster and Ellington Jordan provided the next Etta James song: I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta is always going to be a very hard act to follow but Lisa and the band do a damn good job of it…no huge changes, just a tasteful and strong reading of a classic.
Moving into Memphis next and That’s What Will Make You Do by the inimitable Little Milton is again hailed rather nicely…sure, I probably prefer the jammed up versions by Jerry Garcia and Gov’t Mule, but this exceedingly good too. I’m In Love by Bobby Womack is as soulful as you’d expect but the horns and the neat backing the band deliver make it enjoyable. Same Time Same Place was written by David Porter and Isaac Hayes and, although it’s not too Stax, and has some wonderful Hammond fills and Lisa’s vocal makes it much closer to an intimate gospel song…that is, in my view, better. A Place Nobody Can Find from Sam & Dave and is handled impeccably by Lisa with a lilt that gets you joining in. That’s How Strong My Love Is by Roosevelt Jackson but famed for the Otis Redding interpretation is matched emotion for emotion and, whilst not matching my favourite reading by The Stones, it is still a demonstration of how good Lisa is at nuancing every note and drawing you in. Someone Else Is Steppin’ In by Denise LaSalle is funky with ace guitar phrasing and another great vocal with a lovely (almost) mucky laugh too…the sax solo works well too. Travel On is a gospel song, if you listen to the lyrics, but here it is a soulful blues with a lovely groove behind it all. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland gets the Lisa treatment on Members Only…and she does a fantastic job as she makes the basic backing softer and subtler with a a delightful Hammond solo and with vocals that are whispered, building and building, and then back again…soulfully breathless! The final track is listed as one of those “bonus tracks” and is the old song, Just Walking In The Rain made famous by Johnny Ray but the best will always be the 1953 version by The Prisonaires (because they were in prison!) Lisa does come close however as it features just her and her guitar and it is enthralling…vocals of passion and compassion combine with the simple chord work to make a memorable ending to a very strong album.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws; A Wonderful soulful blues album packed with quality performances from everyone but, not surprisingly it is Lisa that shines through.
1. Greenwood, Mississippi
2. Tell Mama
3. Slip Away
4. I’d Rather Go Blind
5. That’s What Love Will Make You Do
6. I’m In Love
7. Same Time Same Place
8. A Place Nobody Can Find
9. That’s How Strong My Love Is
10. Someone Else Is Stepping In
11. I’ll Always Love You
12. Traveling On (CD version only)
13. Members Only
14. Just Walking In The Rain
Tracks 1-4 recorded at Fame Studios, Sheffield, Alabama; tracks 5-9 recorded at Royal Studios, Memphis, Tennessee; tracks 10-13 recorded at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi; track 14 recorded at Sun Studios, Memphis, Tennessee.
Produced by Fred Mollin (also played rhythm and acoustic guitars)
Muscle Shoals musicians:
Clayton Ivey (keys)
Bob Wray (bass)
John Willis (lead electric guitar)
Justin Holder (drums and percussion)
Lester Snell (keys)
Leroy Hodges (bass)
Michael Toles (lead electric guitar)
Steve Potts (drums and percussion)
Reverend Charles Hodges (Hammond B3 organ).
Sam Brady (keys)
Mike Thorn (bass)
Brennan White (lead electric guitar)
George Lawrence (drums and percussion)
Jim Hoke Hoke on saxophones and Steve Herman on trumpet.
Backing vocals: Maureen Murphy and Kendra Chantelle.
(iTunes came up with a little known blues album of very high quality…Little Albert is in fact, doom metal guitarist from the band Messa, Alberto Piccolo. Just last year he put out an EP called Swamp King and included a rather good version of Bridge of Sighs as well as original stuff and it is all rather good.)