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CD Review: Brand New Day by Donna Lewis 

click to enlarge cd_donna_lewis.jpg

(2015, Palmetto Records)

You know Donna Lewis. Everyone does. Maybe not the name, but you know that song. The one that followed you everywhere in the late `90s whether you liked pop music or not. "I Love You Always Forever" still gets radio play, but you would never know this was the same Lewis responsible for the new release Brand New Day. For starters, the music is played by (and sounds like) a progressive jazz trio consisting of David King on drums, Reid Anderson on double bass, and Ethan Iverson on piano (arranger and producer David Torn also plays guitar on some tracks). The result is an acrobatic balance between the ambitious chanteuse and subtle, but sometimes avant, jazz. Lewis walks the musical tightrope with dexterity in both breadth of vocal expression and phrasing. Precious falsetto breaths meld seamlessly into warmer voicings. Improvisational, childlike whispers interplay with full-throated lady lungs.

To add even more dichotomy to the album, Lewis's three original compositions (including a remake of her big hit) are spread amidst eight cover songs. Neil Young, David Bowie, and Burt Bacharach break bread with Damien Rice, Gnarls Barkley, Anotonio Carlos Jobim, Harry Nilsson, and Chocolate Genuis. Despite the lack of originals, the improvisational interpretation, song choice, and the extreme character of Lewis's voice all come together to encapsulate a complete and creative work. The songs were recorded at the Clubhouse in Rhinebeck and mixed at the Isokon in Woodstock. Album artwork is from the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale. DonnaLewis.com.

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