Imagine the warm and welcoming sounds of traditional country and early blues music—an embodiment of Americana equally suited snaking its way out of a 1940s Texas honky-tonk, as it would be radiating effervescently from the cuspidate windows of a Mississippi church on a Sunday morning.
Native Ohioan singer/songwriter Lisa Biales, known for her clear, full voice and unique guitar accompaniment style, has released a new album “Singing in my Soul” featuring covers by Harvey Brooks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Al Dubin, among others. Biales’ original song “Magic Garden” is also included.
On this endeavor, Biales has enlisted the help of Cincinnati-based pianist Ricky Nye, as well as the Paris Blues Band, a group of Parisian transplants providing the potent rhythm-section flair that really helps the classic tunes jump from the speakers.
I had the opportunity to interview Lisa about her background, this project, her band mates, and her future plans:
A wide range of influences are exhibited on this album. What music did you grow up listening to?
My dad played upright bass in a Dixieland jazz band for over 40 years. I loved going to jam sessions on Sundays where everyone brought food to some juke joint and dad would play all day and mom would sing. My mother was a fantastic singer and loved hearing a great song. Certainly that is where my appreciation for a great voice comes from. My folks listened to Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and big band music on the radio.
How about guitar influences?
Cal Collins (jazz guitarist) was my first guitar teacher, then my brother who introduced me to the Beatles. All through my career, I have learned from the guitarists I have worked with. Currently I am digging Rory Block’s playing and I like the fingerstyle guitar playing of Mississippi John Hurt. The Eric Clapton Unplugged album really got me hooked on the acoustic guitar.
What are some of your writing inspirations?
I get inspiration from the simple things in life.
Why did you choose to perform mostly covers on ‘Singing in My Soul’?
There are so many great songs and I wanted to re-visit early blues music. I did write one for the album, “Magic Garden” which was inspired by a day at home. I love having nothing to do when I am at home. This gives me the opportunity to really enjoy my dog, the chickens, the bees, and hopping on my riding lawn mower to keep the walking trails clear. That’s a rare treat for me.
You include two Sister Rosetta Sharpe songs on the album. When were you introduced to her music, and have you had the chance to see the recent PBS biographical documentary on her (or our corresponding interview with the director)?
EG Kight who produced the 2012 release “Just Like Honey” introduced me to Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s music during our pre-production time. I have not seen the documentary, but now I’m gonna go find it! I love how she played a smoking hot electric guitar.
Do you enjoy studio/recording process as opposed to live playing?
I enjoy it all. Any day that I can sing and play music is a good day. I have been in the studio and played live enough to enjoy them both.
How did you come into contact with Ricky Nye?
I heard Ricky play at the Southgate House in Newport, KY. I loved his style and purchased a cd from him. I really liked the tunes he recorded and called him to book him at the Wine & Art Festival in Oxford, Ohio. We chatted for a long time and I realized that he was really passionate about boogie woogie and early blues music. I asked if he wanted to do a few tunes together, we did, and that was that.
And how did you hook up with the Paris Blues Band?
Ricky has known the guys from Paris (Thibaut Chopin, Anthony Stelmaszack, Simon Boyer) for several years. Again, I booked them in my home town, sat in with them and electricity filled the air. It was one of those matches made in heaven kinda feelings.
Were the arrangements on ‘Singing in My Soul’ predetermined or did you work that out with Ricky and the band in the studio?
We worked everything out in the studio. That way, everyone had some input into the arrangements.
You seem to have a deep connection with Patsy Cline (both her music and persona). Could you discuss that a bit?
I was cast in the two woman play “Always, Patsy Cline” as the lead character. In my research of Patsy Cline, I discovered how much she liked singing the blues and “growling” as she called it, in a song.
I understand you host concerts in your home?
Hubby Marc and I decided to build a house for the purpose of hosting musicians in an intimate house concert experience. We are having lots of fun and people are really enjoying the concerts. We’ve had Guy Davis, Commander Cody, Wild Carrot, Ricky Nye & The Paris Blues Band, and Sally Van Meter just to name a few.
What is your favorite song on album?
Singing In My Soul
What are your plans for this year?
More searching for songs, writing, playing some shows, and teaching our new Border Collie puppy a few tricks.
For more information on Lisa, visit her website at www.lisabiales.com.
Cover photo – Jenny Gorenflo