Lizz Wright

Dreaming Wide Awake

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The smoky, sizzlingly soulful rural Georgian created an immediate and well-deserved critical firestorm with her 2003 debut Salt; the L.A. Times wasn't overstating it when they said, "She walked onstage at the Hollywood Bowl a virtual unknown...Fifteen minutes later, she walked off a star." Like her more (so far, but maybe not for long) renowned labelmate Diana Krall, Lizz Wright is a brilliant interpreter who can cover rock classics (Neil Young's "Old Man," the Youngbloods' "Get Together") as if they were fresh new generational statements, and even give an emotional urgency to fluffy classics like "A Taste of Honey" (done all swampy here). She even works wonders with her transcendent twist on Ella Jenkins' "Wake Up Little Sparrow," turning the tune into a meditation on the bluesy realities of love. But she is also an inspired songwriter in her own "wright," creating the resonating and heartrending, Norah Jones-like "Hit the Ground," with Jones' writer Jesse Harris, and other instantly seductive tracks like a soaring "Trouble" (the first song she ever wrote on guitar) and hauntingly dark title tune. These latter two, easily on par with the original material, shouldn't be so deep in the mix, and Wright should definitely include more originals as time goes on. Clearly aware that he has a future legend with a one in a million voice on his hands -- and that anything getting in the way of that intimate emotional connection would be criminal -- producer Craig Street provides only the sparsest and down-home of productions.

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