Marla Lewis’ New Album “Songbook” 

“Blue Horizon” begins Marla Lewis’ new album Songbook on a definite optimistic note. It isn’t the musical equivalent of wearing rose colored glasses, Lewis retains a mature point of view throughout, but it’s a track bursting with the same welcoming mood pervading much of her new release. The guitar is especially strong. It isn’t a consistent presence during “Blue Horizon” though the big chords dropping in over the course of the cut pump added muscle into the song.

URL: https://marlalewis.com/

Tackling jazz with this release is the surest indication as any that Lewis isn’t in it “for the money”. The genre boasts a significant following, there’s no doubt of that, but it isn’t the sort of numbers guaranteed to land her on national television. Passion drives a project such as Songbook, never commercial considerations. “My Lucky Stars” has a warm gradual stride carrying you away from the beginning and melodic flute opens the song. It is worth noting how Lewis so often readily cedes the spotlight to the players rather than trying to hoard the listener’s attention. It isn’t labeled or sold as the Marla Lewis Band but the singer clearly considers herself part of a larger ensemble.

“Merry Go Round” has dream-like lyrics, only barely tethered to earth, and the mix of musical elements sparkles throughout. The cascades of piano notes falling throughout the arrangement complements the elegant guitar solo; the latter has a warm and immaculate tone. There’s a smattering of backing vocals that may seem gratuitous to some, there’s no doubt Lewis doesn’t need help, but many will hear as a great way to underline the lead vocal.

One of the album’s centerpieces is “Kill the Lights”. It’s one of the rarer “dramatic” songs on the album as it depicts a failing relationship. Lewis sets her song apart, however, by sounding over it already, long past caring, without ever overwhelming listeners with vitriol. The cool, collected quality gives it extra gravitas. “Friends in the Audience” is a little bit of a throwaway, but nonetheless fun. Lewis demonstrates her finesse, once again, by toying with the song rather than treating it like some sort of gimmick or novelty number. The joy in her vocal is audible.

Backing vocals are an important part of “Better Late than Never”, but this jaunty romp benefits much more from its bass playing. The upright bass utilized here and elsewhere is a genre mainstay, of course, but the playing is never staid. We return to more placid but nonetheless satisfying territory with “Apple of My Eye”. Many will hear the horns as its musical highlight, but the piano work shines once again. “Fallin’ in Love (All Over Again)” closes Songbook with a final mid-tempo reverie on love’s first flush.

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One of the few criticisms listeners might levy against the release is that Lewis falls a little too often into this sort of mid-tempo drift and could vary her subject matter a little more. Many more will, however, enjoy how well her supporting musicians fulfill their individual and collective roles. Her album Songbook pushes boundaries in a low-key way and remains faithful to its roots. It, likewise, presents Lewis’ admirers with a new side of her musical personality they will love.

Rachel Townsend

The music of Marla Lewis has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division.  Learn more https://musikandfilm.com

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