2016 – Proper Music
By Phillip Smith; May 14, 2016
From the first listen of Lizanne Knott’s fourth and latest album, Excellent Day, I’ve been a little obsessed. Knott’s lovely vocals beautifully accent her poignant and darkly-tinted lyrics with grace and precision. Her music cleverly navigates the listener through a labyrinth built on rock and roll, folk and blues.
Ross Bellenoit’s haunting guitar licks and Erik Johnson’s determined driving beat create the alluring yet unsettling and ominous mood which is the constant throughout “I Come For the Kill”. This song of unbridled passion sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Lay My Burdon Down” is one hundred percent blues through and through. I love the presence of Steve Martin on banjo and Tom Hampton on lap steel guitar. That, combined with a little call and response vocals, exquisitely solidifies this as a favorite.
Things get sultry and spicy as Knotts sweetly sings the Bourbon Street-flavored tune “Not This Time”. Trumpeter Stan Slotter steals a little bit of the spotlight on this track, which captures a fabulous performance by the band, made up of guitarist Kevin Hanson, upright bassist Ken Pendergast, pianist John Conohan , banjo player Glenn Barratt, Hampton on dobro and mandolin, and Johnson on drums. The cover of the Gershwin penned “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from the folk opera Porgy and Bess, is a sheer delight. Knott tackles “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen as well, steering “Stolen Car” in more of a western and folky direction, making sure to keep the solemn texture of the original.
Title track “Excellent Day” is a charming jam-friendly tribute to Knott’s longtime friend, guitarist Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away in 2013. Pendergast’s funky bassline and Bellenoit’s tasty guitar licks are front and center of this boogie-laced number penned by Johnson.
Sign me up for the fan club, as this is truly a fantastic album.