BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Lizz Wright continues to make the most of a commendable reputation she’s sewn for the better part of the past decade. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy; her last album, Freedom & Surrender, was five years in the making and should have brought her to the brink of wider recognition. It was, after all, a superior showcase for a searing, soulful style that freely incorporates gospel, blues and pop. In some circles it came close, close enough at least to create anticipation for what would come next.
Indeed, Grace makes for a fitting follow-up, and it provides another reason for thinking that it may, in fact, be the effort that helps define her career. It surges with drive and determination right out of the gate, with a trio of songs (“Barley,” “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You,” “Singing In My Soul”) that set the standard for all that’s to come. Wright relies mostly on covers — she’s only credited with co-writing the final track “All the Way Here” — but her choice of classic material — Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand,” Allen Toussaint’s Southern Nights,” the timeless standard “Stars Fell on Alabama, as well as newer, but equally impressive choices by k.d. lang, Rose Cousins and Ray Charles — testify to her ability to make the material her own. Wright is one of those singers who’s clearly capable of putting her own stamp on even the most familiar material, as evidenced by nothing more than the strength her own determined delivery.
Grace? Indeed. Given the accomplishments listed above, it’s a true treasure all on its own.
DOWNLOAD: “Stars Fell on Alabama,” “Every Grain of Sand,” “Barley”