|L-R: Michael Janisch, Steve Hamilton, Donna Lewis at the Pheasantry
Out of shot: Andrew Bain
(Pizza Pheasantry, 16th June, first night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
“Only the echoes of my mind.” That line from the 60s song Everybody’s Talkin’ does indeed keep echoing in the mind after Donna Lewis‘ Brand New Day album launch at the Pheasantry last night. The Cardiff-born, Woodstock NY-based singer has a teasing, hypnotic way of quietly repeating, circling a lyric like a mantra. Once she gets hold of a word or a phrase she just doesn’t let it go.
So a song like Neil Young’s Helpless – that word is repeated round and round – replaces the countermelodies and the busy orchestration of the original with poignant, emotional silences. In You’re Special the “You’re” is cherished and caressed, and the listener is taken to a peaceful place as far from the brassy urban bustle of the Commodores as it is possible to go.
Lewis has a completely remarkable story to tell, part of which is in a brief interview we did with her last week (LINK). She was a student of flute and piano in Cardiff… then a music teacher and a gigging musician in Birmingham and Brighton …and then, suddenly… a US multi-platinum-selling pop success who then got invited – among other things – to sing in the song At the Beginning in Disney’s Anastasia (Video).
She has a breathy, sometimes ingenue vocal timbre, the core vibe is spacious and languid. But Lewis’ tuning is unbelievable and, helped by Michael Janisch’s hyper-reliable intonation, his sense of drama and conversation, and the band’s ability to generate funky momentum, we are musically on very secure ground indeed. It is a band which can follow any vibe, taking the mood up for Walk on By, and then back down into contemplative Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.
The new CD Brand New Day was made with the members of the Bad Plus, and this UK-based touring band – also with Steve Hamilton on piano and Andrew Bain on drums is a top-flight unit too, which is developing its own sound to support Lewis’ characterful and haunting voice.