Lisa Marie Presley

Storm & Grace

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The trouble with being the only child of the most iconic musician of the 20th century is people expect you to go into the family business, even if it isn't your first choice, and Lisa Marie Presley waited until she was 35 years old before she released her debut album, 2003's To Whom It May Concern, suggesting she might not have been born with a burning need to express herself as a musician. Presley's lyrics had plenty to say about her inarguably remarkable life experiences, but the title of her second album, 2005's Now What, reflected a certain ambivalence about her career, as if being just another pop star no longer held much interest. Seven years after Now What, Presley has shifted gears with her third album, Storm & Grace; while her earlier work was polished, professional pop music with lots of sparkle but not so much personality, for this album Presley enlisted producer T-Bone Burnett, who helps conjure up a deeper, more organic sound that leans to swampy blues and country accents without moving too far from boilerplate roots music. Presley also embraced a more "American" sound while writing with a handful of British songwriters, including Richard Hawley and Ed Harcourt, and while that irony won't be lost on anyone, her collaborators have done their work well, creating a richer and more mature musical palette for the singer. Presley's first two albums sounded like the work of someone who thought making a record might be a good idea, but Storm & Grace feels like music she genuinely wanted to make, and if Presley's deep, breathy vocal style still doesn't boast much range, she sounds at once relaxed and fully engaged here, comfortable with her instrument in a way she wasn't before. (And one can read what they want into the fact Presley's vague vocal resemblance to Burnett's former wife Sam Phillips is noticeably clearer on these sessions.) Presley may not have much to say beyond celebrating those who bring love into her life and damning those who make trouble for her, but the songs feel personal and heartfelt, and without asking us to feel sorry for someone with a remarkable birthright and a $100 million fortune, she does opens up a bit of her world to her listeners with admirable candor. On her first two albums, Lisa Marie Presley wanted to be a pop star with a difference; on Storm & Grace, she clearly would rather be an artist, and if she's still working her musical shortcomings out of her system, this is a stronger, more mature, and more effective work than one might have expected. Nearly ten years into a recording career she may or may not have wanted, Presley is finally developing a musical personality that truly suits her.

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