Featured Artist January 2008: Lisa Phenix

Twirl Radio has scoured the country, and sometimes the world, to bring you the finest music from the rock era. It’s fun finding this unlikely stew of sounds which blend so nicely on the radio. But to start off the new year, I didn’t need to travel any farther than my hometown of Sacramento to find the Twirl Radio Artist of the Month for January 2008, Lisa Phenix! Lisa and former Beer Dawg Steve Wall visited me on Twirl Radio with an in-studio live performance on Saturday, January 26th, 2008.

A few years ago, when I was on hiatus from Twirl, I received an unsolicited email from local talent Lisa. The subject line simply stated “Play my music”. In the body of the message, this homegrown talent offered me the chance to receive a copy of her just-released CD Homegrown. I felt a little embarrassed, because I wasn’t currently doing a radio show. But things change, and I started doing my show again in late 2006. And fortunately for me, Lisa’s offer of the disc still stood, so I took her up on it.

Homegrown is an impressive debut. What’s the style of this delightful album? Well, perhaps you could say something like Bonnie Raitt meets John Fogerty, but with the most crystal clear voice you can imagine. That would make her bluesy. But there’s also elements of jazz, folk, and Americana in the music. It all depends upon the song. You might even find a voice like hers on a country music station–if they ever decided to start playing good music again.

The disc leads off with the fun Lazy Daisy May, which showcases Lisa’s crystal-clear voice, and some fine guitar work. This song sounds like it would fit in perfectly with the repertoire of Sacramento’s own Mumbo Gumbo (if you’ve never heard them, they’re sort of a bayou-boogie type band–sort of like the Sacramento River meets the Mississippi River, and winds up in New Orleans). Almost a nursery-rhyme type of song. Then another song in the same vein, but for the grownups, Chocolate=Love. Two can’t-miss songs which succeed in introducing Lisa to the world. And then she goes deep–Losin’ Your Good Woman Blues is a moody, folky performance with wistful vocals and a strong, soulful guitar performance. My favorite song on the album.

Other highlights on the disc include Lisa’s signature song, Silly Little Mama, a rockabilly tune for kids of all ages. (Incidentally, Lisa teaches music and movement to pre-school kids in the Sacramento area, so it’s no surprise that she appeals to all ages.) There’s a run of three blues songs in a row: Good Man, which sounds like it comes straight outta Austin, Texas; and Good Lovin’ Baby, with a similar sound. Then comes Bad Blues, which gets a little grittier, as if she took that pretty ’61 Cadillac on the cover of the CD, and drove it north to Chicago. Peace of Mind and Patience are beautiful folk songs, showing off Lisa’s voice and songwriting. Irie’s Song is a fine Americana piece, which could have fit in nicely with the Jayhawks circa 1995. And the album closes with another swingin’ blues number, Cockadoodle Doo. In just 45 minutes, Lisa Phenix takes us through America’s songbook–using her original songwriting! The most amazing thing is that Lisa has only been performing and recording for the last four years. There’s hope for all of us!

I should also tell you that Lisa just released a kids’ album, Holidays Are For Hugging, over the holidays. It’s a sweet little disc, and furthers her work teaching really little kids. But you know what? It’s a fun listen for adults, too!

Those of us here in Northern California are lucky, because we can see Lisa performing around town. For the rest of you, I’m proud to present her as the Twirl Artist of the Month for January, 2008!

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