A native of Philadelphia now based in Nashville, Lizanne Knott has built a dedicated following both in the States and here in the UK for her sultry brand of Americana; however, for ‘Excellent Day’, her fourth album, the recent death of guitarist Jef Lee Johnson prompted her to dig back into her blues and jazz roots, the result is a stew of the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans and vintage Nashville. Indeed, the laid back, brass coated, lazing blues title track is itself a Johnson penned number.
It’s not the only cover here. Sometimes, a melancholic, hushed voice and acoustic guitar ballad about love’s often brief nature, is an unreleased Janis Ian number only available as a download worktape on her site, It Ain’t Necessarily So is a smoky blues reading of the Gershwin classic with horns, fiddle and upright bass while she carries the world weary resignation of Springsteen’s Stolen Car on an arrangement of fiddle, slide, organ and drum programming.
Save for a collaboration with Bill Reveles on the percussion, piano and trumpet based mid-tempo New Orleans gospel groove Not This Time, the other tracks are all self-penned, kicking off with the tribal stomp beat of the seductive snake bite of Come For The Kill, taking a dusk-hung jazzy sway through the sweet chorus roll of Why You Wanna Break My Heart and the spare break up of Goodbye with its upright bass and muted trumped washed mood of lights reflecting in rainwashed city streets.
There’s a rootsier feel to the equally stripped down Tennessee, its wistful air etched out on simple acoustic guitar, the chorus embellished with dobro and pedal steel while, with its trumpet and Wurlitzer piano, the easy shuffling upbeat Someday Love leans more to a countrypolitan ragtime vibe and, as you may guess from the title, the steady rolling Lay My Burden Down is vintage roots gospel, complete with line echoing background vocals and featuring tasty slide from Pat Wictor and special guest Steve Martin on banjo.
Excellent Day is one for those albums for late summer nights filled with the smell of woodsmoke, the taste of a good bourbon and the glow of fireflies.
Review by: Mike Davies