Lizz Wright is one of those old souls in a young body. Her music blends blues, R&B, and unvarnished folk music into a musical jambalaya.
Influences from Billie Holiday to ’70s soul and rootsy jazz make The Orchard a consistently interesting listen, with Wright’s smoky vocals always front and center. “Leave Me Standing Alone” could be a ’70s outtake, its wah-wah guitars and stealthy beat bringing to mind artists such as Isaac Hayes or the Staple Singers. The following “Speak Your Heart” is a wistful plea to define a relationship, acoustic guitars suspended over gentle electronics, while “Song For Mia” brings to mind such classic British folk troubadors as John Martyn or even Nick Drake. Larry Campbell’s mandolin accentuates that feeling of old timey-ness, but today’s modern recording and reproducing technology gives this music a sonic sheen that those artists from days gone by could only have dreamed of.
Much of this music is unsettling, with its minor keys and Wright’s often mournful tones. “My Heart” is a perfect example, with its spooky clavinet and guitar and dolorous backing vocals surrounding Wright and the acoustic guitar that drives the tune. The Led Zep track “Thank You” could have provided a fitting conclusion, as Wright reinvents the track, even featuring a pair of mournful trumpets. But Wright decided to include a bonus track- by Mel Tillis, of all people. “Strange” is actually one of the best tunes on the album, and Wright’s understated delivery – all right, the entire band’s understated delivery – makes you lean forward into the speakers to make sure you don’t miss anything.
- Ross Boissoneau