Apart from its virtues as a brilliant piece of programming – seven of eleven songs written or co-written by the diamantine-voiced Barbra Lica and the other four songs seemingly written expressly for her – this disc should be snapped up not only by lovers of vocal music, but by music itself. It’s been some time since we’ve heard anything so fresh as sea breeze in a city so far away from frothing, foaming waves. The short disc’s main triumph of course is Barbra Lica, a vocal alchemist who I feel sure can bring dead leaves back to life again, simply by breathing on them. How much more then can she turn the very consonants and vowels of words to poetry, even as she seems to flirt with their sounds before tossing them off with delicate articulation in the liveliest top register on the captivating album I’m Still Learning?
The built-in ‘little-girl’ vibrato plays its part in the seduction endowing Lica’s voice with the intimate light-textured tone required for the elementally melancholic musings of “How Insensitive” to tear hopelessly at the heart. This might seem completely out of character for Barbra Lica, whose musicianship seems made for joy and ebullience. However, it’s all in Lica’s chameleonic nature which enables her to turn on a dime in – for instance – “Lovefool” as she blows metaphorical kisses via her dreamy rendition of the song. Between the two extremes lies a musician who brings serious meditative passion to her vocalastics in her own song “His” as she lets the song speak to her in the deepest recesses of her soul, and bringing many a lump-in-the-throat moment.
For all of her delicate ‘girly’ freshness there is an ardent soul in Barbra Lica and it bursts out in the beautifully sweet tone with which she celebrates the urban world with a mixture of folk wisdom and sophisticated poetic conceits as she brings her idiomatic phrasing to life. Then with an artful seduction she lends her gorgeous instrument to the business of making her art imitate life and vice versa. She is joined in her delightful subterfuge by a remarkable group of musicians that includes Marc Rogers producing and on bass, Larnell Lewis on drums and Lou Pomanti and Joel Visentin on piano. The recording engineers, wizards all, support her exquisitely calibrated soft singing with a rich acoustic and crystal-clear sound.
Track list: 1: Coffee Shop; 2: Who Knows; 3: Secret Heart; 4: Nashville; 5: Did I Just Say That? 6: How Insensitive; 7: Lovefool; 8: London Town; 9: His; 10: So in Love; 11: 5 O’ Clock Lullaby.
Personnel: Barbra Lica: vocals; Marc Rogers: bass; Larnell Lewis: drums (1, 3-7, 10); Lou Pomanti: piano & keyboards (1, 3, 5-7, 10); James Bryan: guitar (1, 3, 5-7, 10); Will Fisher: drums (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Joel Visentin: piano, keyboards, accordion & vocals (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Tom Fleming: guitar (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); William Sperandai: trumpet (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Mike Eckert: pedal steel guitar & dobro (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Lydia Persaud: vocals (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Jill Harris: vocals (2, 4, 8, 9, 11); Jeremy Darby, Lenny DeRose, Spencer Sunshine and Alex Krotz: recording engineers; Phil Demetro: mastering.
Label: Justin Time
Run time: 42:03