LISA MEDNICK POWELL – “Blue Book” (Cicada Sounds) That it’s a genuinely mysterious contradiction is, perhaps, appropriate in a way, but there’s something of the lasting ephemeral in the work of Lisa Mednick Powell. Similar to the Band’s mythic epiphanies or the sand mandalas of Tibetan monks, the songs on Blue Book seem held in this sort of tension of timelessness that makes them feel both fleeting and stamped forever on your music-listening heart. It’s not a trick, there’s no sleight-of-anything going on, they convince you of that from the very start. It’s just how they arrive, as if they’re fully-formed souls aware of their own mortality. If her name sounds somewhat familiar it should, having produced previous to this two full-lengths of intimate Americana that resonated throughout the universe like penetrating whispers in a box canyon, earning plaudits from publications as varied as the Utne Reader and Rolling Stone. More importantly, she established along the way a reputation as a songwriting talent of sufficient gravity to not only attract kudos from the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard (“Her songs are just cool and important”) but as well to pull in ‘old friends’ Victoria Williams, Tommy Malone, Alison Young, Greg Leisz and others to help flesh out Blue Book. As good and no doubt welcome as those assists were, however, they still, in the end, amount to what might be considered well-intentioned lily-gilding. These ten songs inhabit their own cores with authority and grace, delicately suspended on a back porch between the numinous and the unshakably grounded. Updated but utterly bespoke between the lines, the first-up “Smoke Over Carolina” hangs a Civil War veil over the plight of the working class circa 2018, the result – as Leisz instructs his acoustic to imitate a dobro and Ms Williams backing vox haunt the chorus as if she’s the female Rick Danko – playing like a poignant folk standard adapted by Joan Baez after reading Ehrenreich. Sticking with the literary for a sec, the liltingly desperate “Checkpoint” is soft Americana noir that implies a chance meeting between Ms Mednick Powell and Jim Thompson somewhere along the Rio Grande, while the moving, rousing “Give the Guns to the Girls” (co-credited to husband Kip Powell) is a piece of impatient, soul-scarred journalism that, though written in response to the horrors of Boko Haram, finds its saddened righteous beauty inescapably resonating through our post-Parkland world, the emphatic pound of Powell’s piano chords and Gar Anderson’s flaring anger of a closing guitar solo making for some eloquent prose indeed. Elsewhere, however, the mystique and aspiration find a multiplicity of ways to express themselves. “Cold Coffee,” a Malone co-write, has a Dolly-goes-country rock vibe that isn’t shy about kicking up the sawdust, “I Am Not Gold,” more obliquely – but just as sharply – feminist, with Zevonesque shimmers of organ-like pedal steel and the rhythm section (Kip on bass, Danny Frankel drums) gently plumbing the human heart, could very well make Gillian Welch break down in tears upon contact, while the extraordinary “Crow” spends its near-five minutes wandering the halls between a knowing Shaggs-ian naivety and Laurie Anderson’s earliest avant-pop inclinations, a cut that, with its skeletal double-tracked vocals and the denuded plink-plonk jazz of a prepared piano, may seem a dissociative nightmare set to a Let’s Eat Grandma out-take but is in fact strangely riveting. So, you’re gonna need at least three hands here. On the one, an out-of-the-box (take that phrase however you like) delight, on the other a stay-on-your-toes collection that surprises then wisely lulls then surprises again, then on the third hand a work of quiet (sometimes not-so-quiet) genius. It’s a three-card monty of superior outcomes, you can’t lose. One last thing, though, needs be said. While the interims between releases have thus far displayed a troubling pattern of doubling – Semaphore appearing eight years after debut Artifacts of Love and now Blue Book sixteen years past its predecessor – let’s hope and bloody pray that the world doesn’t have to wait until 2050 for album number four. Though Ms Mednick Powell’s penchant for permanent evanescence is almost certainly as unique a gift as once can hope to receive from any artist, we humbly (and, OK, kiddingly) implore, addicted as we now are, not to be asked to wait another thirty-two years. √√√¾” - Dave Cantrell

— Stereo Embers

Mike Davies included "Give the Guns to the Girls" in his Best of 2018 playlist yesterday. Listen here!” - Mike Davies

Brum Radio, Birmingham England

NBT Project Top 200 List Martin NBT Project
In a stroke of serendipity, the arrival a few weeks ago of the latest album from singer-songwriter Lisa Mednick Powell very nearly coincided with an interview I did in early March with some college journalism students. (The record was officially released this past November.) Their topic was songs about North and South Carolina, and they tapped me for my knowledge of contemporary musicians (a couple of professors had been their sources for pre-British Invasion artists); had I heard Blue Book prior to the interview, I surely would have included Powell’s haunting “Smoke Over Carolina,” the album’s opening track and the third in what she calls her Civil War trilogy, although it was specifically inspired by a news story she heard about a deadly fire at a chicken processing factory in which the workers were trapped inside. “I’m leaving today,” her protagonist sings, “there’s fire in the trees, and smoke over Carolina,” With harmony vocals from Powell’s husband Kip and Victoria Williams (the tune was recorded in Joshua Tree, where Williams lives), and against a backdrop of bass, drums, spectral organ, and Greg Leisz’ guitar and mandolin, Powell beautifully evokes that not-yet-forgotten era, deftly echoing an earlier song about the South, The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” It’s a rich, contemplative album, from the gentle country-folk of “Pieces of Your Soul” (observes Powell, “Some things we carry/ Some things we must let go,” uttering a simple-yet-sage truism too many people fail to heed) and the honky-tonk-tinged “To the Wilderness” (which was produced by hard-twanging guitarist Tommy Malone in New Orleans), to the eerie, Tom Waitsish sonic collage of “Crow,” to the show-stopping anthem that is “Give the Guns to the Girls,” which unfolds in suite-like fashion, part rock, part Americana, part cabaret jazz, and wholly political. It may have been inspired by the Boko Haram abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls, but considering the current climate in the United States, it’s as timely a song as you’ll likely encounter right now. Blue Book is Powell’s third album, and considering it’s been nearly 16 years since her previous album, 2002’s acclaimed Semaphore, the obvious question becomes, why the delay? Part of the reason is that she was busy getting a Master’s degree, but really, the answer resides in these ten remarkable tunes: She was taking the time to live her life, learn its many lessons, and turn those experiences into songwriting gold. DOWNLOAD: “Give the Guns to the Girls,” “Smoke Over Carolina,” “Highway Prayer”” - Fred Mills

Blurt Magazine Review

If you aren’t familiar with Lisa Mednick Powell, you have been missing out on decades of great music. The Washington D.C. native has been a part of so many seminal scenes that her sound isn’t easily categorized. That’s a good thing. Like most musicians of a certain age, Lisa’s first flash of inspiration came via the Beatles. Specifically, the Meet The Beatles record her Grandfather gave her when she was just six years old. A year later she began studying Classical piano. Itching to play music, she dropped out of college and began performing in her hometown, as well as New York City. Lisa played in bands like The Chumps and Half-Japanese before forming Pop Decay in 1979. Although their name indicates a grotty Punk style, their sound was an intriguing blend of Folk and Funk. Still, they regularly played at Punk establishments like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City before breaking up in 1982. Following an audition with Joe Jackson, Lisa began pursuing a formal musical education at the Howard Musical Conservatory in Washington, D.C. studying Jazz, she spent time under the musical tutelage of pianist John Malachi before pulling up stakes and heading south to New Orleans. There she received instruction on the saxophone from Charles Neville. (Yes, the Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers, the Crescent City’s first family of music). Apart from formal studies, living in New Orleans offered a pretty complete musical education. Lisa honed her skills playing in bars and clubs with the Rock ensemble the Song Dogs and Reggae band Exuma. Looking for a new challenge she relocated to another vibrant music town, Austin, Texas, it was there she really came into her own. Known as the Live Music Capitol of the World, Austin has offered a safe haven for artists and musicians for decades. It was there Lisa and Bill Conley formed the acoustic duo Ship of Fools. She later collaborated with Alejandro Escovedo, Michelle Shocked and recorded with New Zealand’s premier Guitar Pop combo, the Chills. Contributing keys, alongside heavyweights like ex-db’s front man Peter Holsapple and multi-instrumentalist (and ‘60s Pop visionary) Van Dyke Parks. It was around this same time that she met her future husband Kip Powell. A bassist and respected side-man, Kip had played with myriad bands and musicians, leap-frogging genres from Rock, Country, Jazz, Swing and Gospel. Both Kip and Lisa played in Ray Wylie Hubbard’s band (at different times) and later became friends. Both played in Radney Foster‘s band. While touring the Lone Star state they bonded as the only vegetarians on a BBQ heavy tour. The couple have been married 15 years. With family in Southern California, Lisa has been visiting Palm Springs and the High Desert for more than three decades. Five years ago, she joined the musical diaspora and migrated to the Joshua Tree area. Throughout the years earned her keep as a musician for hire, while pursuing a solo career. She has released two solo albums, Artifacts Of Love arrived in 1994 and eight years later she released Semaphore. She was also half of another duo project, Two Headed Dog, they released one record entitled Better Than One. Now she has returned with her third solo effort, Blue Book. The album opens on an ambitious note with “Smoke Over Carolina.” Plaintive mandolin connects with rustic Weissenborn a stuttery beat and swirly, Psychedelic organ. The lyrics tackle myriad themes; The Civil War, workers’ rights, the de-unionization of America. Even though defiant lyrics like “Where did we go all the ones you disappeared, who you marched blindfolded across the square/You can do your best Pol Pot, Papa Doc or Pinochet, we’re not going anyway” were written years ago, they Speak truth to power and seem like a prescient denunciation of the current political climate. Throughout her career, Lisa has been called upon to master myriad musical genres and that fluency is evident on three tracks. The melody for “Cold Coffee” shares some musical DNA with the Johnny Cash classic “I Still Miss Someone,” but the arrangement and instrumentation is pure Nawlins. Breezy guitar riffs envelope wheezy accordion and a chunky back-beat. The lyrics recall simpler times; “It was sweet olive and vetiver, the river breeze blowing through our hair, long night at the Maple Leaf, you could drown in a memory/Everette on the bar stool watching the dance floor, while we played like fools, never knew what we were in for.” “To The Wilderness” is rockin’ and anthemic, evincing an expansive ‘70s sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Jackson Browne record. Rippling guitar, twinkling piano and a walloping beat nearly camouflage cryptic lyrics that question the tendency to shy away from conflict and controversy; “I played with fragile things I could not afford to break and pay for/I fell down on my knees, never thought to pray for you.” A spitfire guitar solo extends and transcends, undercutting a bit of the self-flagellation. Meanwhile, “I Am Not Gold” finds a middle ground between Traditional Folk music and a Jazzy Torch song. Propelled by a martial cadence, plangent keys wash over mournful pedal steel, tart electric guitar and sparkly mandolin. A study in self-deprecation, lyrics like “There are days you might mistake me for a precious jewel buried in a stone/But you’d best look beyond your longing, go find a girl who’s Flesh and bone,” also hint at emotional emancipation. Although these songs were written over time, a couple, “Give The Guns To The Girls” and “Checkpoint” tackle topics that resonate right now. The former opens with a match-strike, rattling percussion, Sturdy bass lines and insistent piano notes. As spiraling accordion colors and jangly acoustic guitar chime in, Lisa offers this simple solution, perhaps lessening the epidemic mass shootings; “Give the guns to the girls, quit talking to me about peace in this world/Let the girls have guns, let them hunt down the hunter till he has nowhere to run.” The latter is equally serious, offering a brittle meditation on the narrow opportunities afforded to women. An age old inequity, it feels particularly true in the current misogynist culture. Slow and contemplative, the arrangement is accented by lowing trumpet, reedy Wurlitzer, and spectral lap steel. Roiling bass and a kick drum beat provide ballast. The opening verse uses vivid imagery to illustrate the continued divide between the sexes; “Did you see her walking along the river road, her head held high her pockets full of stones/She is one of the many, you are one of the few, when she imagines kindness she doesn’t think of you.” Guitar and lap steel intertwine on the break, wrapping the song in a dusty chiaroscuro. Other interesting tracks include the predatory tone-poem of “Crow,” the plaintive title track and the Country-Blues of “Piece Of Your Soul” which features this trenchant couplet; “Some things we carry some things we must let go/You lose pieces of your heart but you might find pieces of your soul.” The album closes with the Gritty Gospel Rock of “Highway Prayer.” The tune is powered by bendy bottleneck guitar that lattices over honeyed keys and propulsive rhythms. Slightly Spiritual lyrics insist it’s not necessarily the destination, but the journey that’s important; “Full moon shining your blue lights all around me, when I get a little closer, gonna see a little clearer/Don’t show me any signs I know the way, when I get to the place I belong-please let me stay.” Blue Book is produced by Lisa with some assistance from Chris Unck, Tommy Malone and Gar Robertson. The album was recorded close to home at High Lonesome and Red Barn Recorders, as well as Tarziejack Studios in Rochester, New York and Blue Velvet Studios back in the Big Easy. Of course, Lisa handled lead vocals and keys, Kip played bass and a passel of friends helped out. Tommy Malone, Gar Robertson and Joel Kastner added guitars, lap steel and mandolin, Paul Santopedro pounded the drums and Tom Soden provided trumpet. Backing vocals were supplied by Gabriella Evaro, Tommy Malone, Alison Young and Sophie Kastner. Heavy-hitters like Victoria Williams, Greg Leisz and Danny Frankel weighed in on vocals, guitar, mandolin, lap steel and drums, respectively. There’s a plethora of aural pleasures found on Blue Book, from the inventive arrangements and crisp instrumentation, to the meandering melodies and penetrating lyrics. Lisa’s vocals sandwich nicely between Nanci Griffith’s tremulous catch and Lucinda Williams’ steely grit. Lisa Mednick Powell is an authentic artist who takes her time and hones her craft. That attention to detail has paid off, now it’s the listener who reaps the rewards.” - Eleni P. Austin

Coachella Valley Weekly

Pianist and songwriter Lisa Mednick Powell began her study of classical piano at the age of seven, continuing her studies until dropping out of college, moving from Ann Arbor, MI, to Washington, D.C., and eventually to New York City. While there, she played in a couple of pop bands before deciding to enroll at the Howard University Music Conservatory in Washington, D.C., to study jazz piano. In 1984, she moved to New Orleans to study saxophone with Charles Neville. Over the ensuing years, she backed numerous performers, both in the studio and on the road, including Earl King, Alejandro Escovedo, The Chills, and Michelle Shocked. She recorded her first solo album – Artifacts of Love – in 1994, followed by Semaphore, in 2002. Blue Book is Mednick Powell’s third album, and it took nearly 16 years since her previous album to produce it, with the intervening years providing her with both a Master’s Degree and a whole lot of life experience and perspective. The album was produced by Mednick Powell with assistance from Chris Unck, Tommy Malone and Gar Robertson. Her husband and musical partner Kip Powell played bass, and other contributors include Tommy Malone, Gar Robertson and Joel Kastner on guitars, lap steel and mandolin, Paul Santopedro on drums, and Tom Soden on trumpet. Gabriella Evaro, Tommy Malone, Alison Young, and Sophie Kastner provided backing vocals, with additional vocals and instrumentation from Victoria Williams, Greg Leisz and Danny Frankel. Blue Book is a rich, contemplative album, the tone clearly established with the plaintive dobro-and-mandolin underpinnings of the opening track, “Smoke Over Carolina.” Its lyrics tackle everything from the U.S. Civil War, to workers’ rights, to inequality, to the ongoing assault on organized labor in America, and can only be viewed as a screed against the current global political climate, in which corporate interests and oligarchs are greedily clawing-back power from individuals. “Cold Coffee” is a New Orleans-tinged ballad that is a reminiscence of times gone by: “Now my soul’s just like cold coffee… slipped right through your heart, nobody caught me… but we sang and we danced for every dollar… and the years ran by like muddy water.” “I Am Not Gold” feels like an incredibly personal song: “I am not gold… I’m only silver… and I shine with a cold blue light… do not hold me… to what I can’t deliver… it’s a hard-won prize… it ain’t worth the fight.” “To the Wilderness” is a twangy, country honk that calls to mind early Jackson Browne, as sung by, say, the McGarrigle sisters or Lucinda Williams. Inspired by such events as the 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram and the 2015 Stanford rapist, Brock Turner, “Give the Guns to the Girls” is one of the album’s standout tracks, and continues the theme of disillusionment and resulting activism that underscores the #resist movement both here in the U.S. and abroad. “Give the guns to the girls… quit talking to me about peace in this world… let the girls have the guns… let them hunt down the hunter till he has nowhere to run.“ Angry, powerful stuff. The ethereal dissonance of “Crow” calls to mind some of Tom Wait’s later work, with layers of non-traditional instrumentation that could have easily been orchestrated by John Cage. The album closes out with “Highway Prayer,” a New Orleans-infused take on the soul and gospel ballads of the late 60s. A reworking of something Mednick Powell had recorded back in in the mid-80s, this update has a confident, more upbeat quality that complements some of the darker pieces in this collection. This dark, swirling gumbo of Americana is most definitely a singer-songwriter’s album. I find many of these songs to be evocative of The Band’s best music, and I can easily imagine them being sung by the late Richard Manuel. Like Manuel, Mednick-Powell’s voice has a delicate, almost mournful quality, and the musical performances here are well-matched, with solid arrangements, tasteful instrumentation, and personal, insightful lyrics. It might not be traditional blues by a long shot, but it’s definitely worth a listen… or three.” - Dave Orban

— Blues Blast Magazine

Lisa Mednick Powell doesn’t record often, but when she does, it something pretty special. Blue Book (Cicada Sounds) is her first release in 16 years. Her latest effort was recorded in California and New Orleans with her husband, bass player Kip Powell, and several guest artists, including Tommy Malone, Victoria Williams, Alison Young, Danny Frankel, and Greg Leisz. The ten tracks combine folk, Americana, and the blues and make a powerful and personal statement that touches on events past and present. The haunting opener, “Smoke Over Carolina,” is the third song of a trilogy of Civil War-related songs, but this track also addresses the “civil war” that occurs sometimes between worker and boss. “Pieces of Your Soul” is a somber country-flavored ballad, and the wistful “Cold Coffee” gently swings. “To The Wilderness” leans a bit toward rock with Malone’s guitar adding a little zip, while the scathing “Give The Guns To The Girls” was written just after the Boko Haram tragedy. The upbeat and reflective “Highway Prayer” closes the disc with Powell on keyboards and Malone contributing slide guitar and joining in on vocals. Fans may grouse about the extended period between Lisa Mednick Powell’s album releases, but they can take solace in the fact that each release is an absolute gem as this talented artist pours everything she’s got into every facet of her recordings. Blue Book is a superlative set of emotionally-charged music that makes you think while you listen.” - Graham Clarke

— Blues Bytes

Americana Music News ‏ @KenPaulson7 Mar 15 Give the Guns to the Girls" is a powerful statement from the new Lisa Mednick Powell "Blue Book," her first album in 18 years. @LisaMednickPow @HowardWuelfing” - Ken Paulson (on Twitter)

— Americana Music News

Folk/Country/Blues Singer-Songwriter and multi-Instrumentalist, Lisa Mednick Powell, recently released her third project—her first in 16 years. Composed of ten intriguingly well-crafted, impressionistic songs (think Lucinda Williams) that veer from the finger-pointing “Give The Guns To The Girls,” that is at the harrowing intersection of not only feminism but both American as well as global political radicalism and the leadoff number “Smoke Over Carolina” (the third in a trilogy of Civil War-related songs and as haunting and well crafted as her earlier gems “Harper’s Ferry” and “Chickamauga”) to the reflective, somberly pensive title tune where she’s “trying to erase a line” in her “Blue Book”—Powell is at the top of her game. Recorded in the California High Desert as well as in New Orleans and Los Angeles with her bass-playing/co-composing husband Kip Powell and a handful of pals including the fore-mentioned Williams, Tommy Malone, Alison Young and Greg Leisz, producer Powell weaves a opulently resonant crazy quilt of often fervidly perplexing songs that inevitably recall the gossameriness of life. Other picks encompass the downbeat “Pieces Of Your Soul,” a memory-laden “Cold Coffee,” a Band-like “To The Wilderness” and the driftingly melodic closer “Highway Prayer. Worth the search.” - Gary Von Tersch

— Big City Blues Magazine

Lisa Mednick, “Blue Book.” A keyboardist who toured with indie acts Juliana Hatfield, the Chills and others, Mednick lived in Austin for most of the 1990s. Writing about her 1994 debut album “Artifacts of Love,” former Statesman writer Don McLeese cited “some of the most gorgeously bittersweet piano I’ve heard since James Booker.” She’s since released one other record, 2002’s “Semaphore,” while spending time in upstate New York, New Mexico and, currently, the Joshua Tree desert in California. Along the way, she added the surname Powell — her husband Kip, who plays bass and co-wrote three songs here. On “Blue Book,” some familiar voices arise: The too-infrequently-heard Victoria Williams sings on a couple of tracks, while major-league multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz (who produced “Artifacts of Love”) helps make both “Checkpoint” and “Smoke Over Carolina” shine. Echoes of her 1980s New Orleans days appear as well: Former Song Dogs bandmate Alison Young sings on two cuts, and Subdudes co-leader Tommy Malone is on three (two of which he co-wrote). The vulnerable quaver that lends emotional resonance to Mednick’s vocal delivery balances against the incisiveness of her lyrics, which hit close to the heart on “Pieces of Your Soul” and “I Am Not Gold.” Elsewhere, she pulls no punches on sociopolitical subjects: “Give the Guns to the Girls” is a 21st-century anthem waiting to happen: “Let them hunt down the hunter till he has nowhere to run.” But like most of Mednick’s material, that song can’t be easily pigeonholed. It’s a fascinatingly multilayered work that reveals the panoramic vision of her creative spirit.” - Peter Blackstock

Austin 360

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