2018 BRONZE AWARD WINNER
1) Lawrence Lebo - Female Vocalist
2) Album - Old School Girl
2018 HMMA AWARD NOMINATION IN THE "BLUES" CATEGORY
LAWRENCE LEBO " Old School Girl"
* Label: On The Air Records.
Wow what can one say when you open an album with such an exquisite sophisticated soulful Blues ballad. Pulsating with pathos and angst Lebo instantly creates a world of stunning vocals laced around her brilliantly constructed lyrics. The guitar work from Mandracchia is just that good that he takes your breathe away, all the while trading licks with David’s luscious organ that is velvety, cradling the sound in all of the goodness one can muster. The rhythm section of Croy and Mugalian are superb as they carefully and lithely keep the groove in check. So much to love about this one and man l have to say it again what a voice Ms. Lawrence Lebo possesses, easily one of the best going around today. Excellent Blues with Soulful Stax styling.
*** Track 2. - "Old School Girl" Written by L. Lebo.
Kicking it back a decade or two Lebo hearkens back to the time of her heroes and most certainly is an old school girl. With a stripped back sound Lebo pays homage to the ladies that paved the way for her from a time when it wasn't so easy. She maybe an old school girl with many an old soul but man that doesn't stop her from laying down one very sassy track. Great orchestration that is subdued somewhat as it is all about the brilliance of Lebo's voice but once again Mandracchia delivers an outstanding display of guitar playing that is mesmerizing to say the least. On this one Parlapiano lays down the super cool Hammond B3 and who doesn't love to hear that whirl of the Lesley speaker. Rhythm section Croy and Mugalian are cool as they just sit on the groove and lay it down and keep it perculating perfectly. She maybe old school but whatever school it maybe and whatever way Lebo wants to travel is fine with me as this lady can sing and man she can write a great song!
*** Track 3. - "Stormy Monday" Written by A Walker.
When T. Bone Walker recorded this incredible piece in 1947 little did he know that is 2018 it would be re-imagined into this absolutely masterful Blues ballad. Lebo has scaled the highest of heights in the Blues pantheon with this interpretation such is the breathtaking magnificence of it. Lebo's voice has taken some of every great female Blues singer that has come before her and amalgamated it into a sound that is breathtaking. Larry David then blows the roof off with a heart stopping harmonica solo that just sends this into the stratosphere as Mandracchia unleashes a withering guitar solo on his Stratocaster that instantly stamps this as one of the finest versions ever of this classic Blues. Also it must be also noted that Larry David’s Hammond B3 playing is simply sublime and an intricate part of the mix. That being said it takes a great rhythm section to hold it all together and here you have a great one with Denny Croy on bass and Steve Mugalian on drums. Once heard this will be love at first listen and cause you to constantly press the replay button over and over again. Lawrence Lebo and band have just delivered a tour de force of a recording that l just can't get out of my head and quite frankly l don't want to!
*** Track 4. - "Stop Shouting Your Business" - Remix (Explicit)" Written by L. Lebo.
Move the furniture aside and roll up the rug y'all it's party time for some Cajun fun. Lebo lightens up the mix by heading down Mississippi way for a good ole time. Joyful jumping vocals from Lebo get the party happening with Byron's squeeze box Accordion setting the party into high gear as everybody starts to high steppin'. Plenty of crawfish gumbo to eat and a jug or two and some shine for refreshment. Perfect for a Saturday night rent party or a Saturday night fish fry with Lebo taking on the duties of one Irma Thomas with her vocals. As is the way with good Cajun Croy and Mugalian provide a very boisterous rhythm section along with some wonderful guitar from Mandracchia. Second line is all about getting together and having a good time down in the Lower 9 and here we are right there with Lawrence Lebo leading the procession.
*** Track 5. - "Give Me A Try" Written by L. Lebo.
Super fat and funky this one allows long-time partner of Lebo, Denny Croy, to lay down the slippery thick fat and dirty bass runs that are just delicious. Straight out of the Stax Soulsville catalogue this one has that omni-present groove that just glides along and instantly has you moving with it. Sasha Smith is added to the mix on this one and provides the tantalizingly seductive Hammond B3 that oozes the sex appeal in keeping with Lebo's exquisite vocals. Mandracchia's guitar has a gorgeous twang about it as he riffs throughout and is mixed further back into the mix for a great effect. Drummer Mugalian completes the rhythm section and is forcefully brutish throughout in keeping with Croy's bass. A wonderful track that just has a great groove that gets you moving along with it. There is a real sophistication in this one.
*** Track 6. - "Bad To The Core" Written by L. Lebo.
Here we have well and truly left Mississippi and headed into the badlands of Texas. Ripping and snorting like a longhorn Lebo unleashes her growl and gruffer side in no uncertain terms. The band enter into Texas Roadhouse mode and smoke the sound with Mandracchia ripping apart the mix on guitar as he just melts the frets of his guitar. This double shuffle roadhouse style is child's play in Lebo and her bands hands as they nail it perfectly. From top to bottom the sound is relentless shuffle. Croy and Mugalian pound out the rhythm section like a longhorn stampede coming through the town such is their tenacity. Smith is back again delivering a big solid in your face Hammond sound that like Mandracchia's guitar rolls along at a 100 miles an hour then unleashes into a screaming solo that absolutely has smoke coming from it. Big bold powerful Texas shuffle done right and man what a sound it is.
*** Track 7. - "Happy Anniversary Baby - Remix" Written by L. Lebo.
As soon as Lebo started into this exquisite 12 bar Blues l instantly imagined l was listening to Texas born Little Esther Phillips, (1935), such is her superb tone. The phrasing is out of this world and the guitar work from Mandracchia is sheer genius as he caresses Lebo's voice cradling it in the strings of his Stratocaster carrying her along on a bed of notes. Then David opens up the reeds of his harp and my breath is instantly drawn from my chest as l have been taken back to the classic sound of the fifties. The orchestration and charts are such that one could argue that this is indeed a classic song from back then and not a new song from Lawrence Lebo, who obviously has such a affinity with that past time that you can't just learn. It has to be in you, you have to be an old soul to have it. To deliver a vocal presentation like this just doesn't come along very many times in a lifetime as it is artistically sublime and aurally mesmerizing. Croy and Mugalian's rhythm section is beautifully sympathetic to the mix and l congratulate the way they have placed themselves in the mix. David's organ throughout has an almost ethereal sound that completes the marriage between Lebo's voice and Mandracchia's guitar. I am in awe of this track, is is absolutely gobsmackingly sublime. I thought we had lost the ability to write and record songs such as this back in the fifties but thankfully not. Little Esther would be smiling down from on high after hearing this one.
*** Track 8. - "Stop Shouting Your Business - Remix (FCC Clean)" Written by L. Lebo.
Here we have a more radio friendly version of track 4 but heh for me and here in Australia you can play track 4 Lawrence but what a way to finish your album than with another helping of some joyful good time Cajun fun. ..
~ Peter Merrett, PBS106.7, Melbourne, Australia
BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE
Lawrence Lebo – Old School Girl
On The Air Records 9657
8 songs – 28 minutes
Don’t be fooled by her name, Lawrence Lebo is a female vocalist with old-school sensibilities, as she states directly in the title of this CD.
A lady who possesses a distinctive mezzo soprano voice, she’s the daughter of a Sears & Roebuck shoe salesman who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, where she’s still based. She studied at Grove School Of Music, Santa Monica College and UCLA, where she graduated with honors and took classes taught by guitar master Kenny Burrell. Since making her recording debut on a self-produced EP in 1989, entitled Don’t Call Her Larry, she’s carved a name for herself in jazz, pop and blues circles.
While Lebo delivers plenty of the stylings fans have come to know her for, Old School Girl ventures far more deeply into blues drenched R&B as she pays tribute to one of her biggest influences: the classic sounds that emanated from the Stax studios in Memphis in the ‘60s.
Captured at NewZone Studio in West Los Angeles by Wayne Peet and Ardent Audio in Torrence by Rich Wenzel and, like her previous releases, produced on her own On The Air imprint, this one includes seven Lawrence originals, all of which are thoroughly modern while maintaining a strong foothold in the past, and one cover.
Jazz man Tony Mandracchia, whose work has been featured in the movie soundtracks of Tarzan and Serenity, handles guitar and banjo duties with Denny Croy (Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes and Brian Setzer Orchestra) on bass, Steve Mugalian (Rod Piazza and James Harman) and Ed Eblen on drums, Larry David (Keb’ Mo’ and Smokey Robinson) on keyboards and harmonica, and Carl Byron and accordion. Sasha Smith and Phil Parlapiano share Hammond B-3 organ responsibilities on three of the cuts.
A tasty guitar line opens the slow blues burner “You’ve Got A Secret” in which Lawrence finds herself in tears as she accuses her man of telling lies and wonders what the true might be. Her delivery is steady and slightly behind the beat as it accompanies the instrumentation to drive the song forward. The tune has a timeless feel and features extended solos from David on keys and Mandracchia on six-string.
The tempo picks up slightly for the title tune, “Old School Girl,” which proceeds with a consistent feel and more fine fretwork. In it, she runs down all of the things from the past, like being kissed on the neck, that she still enjoys today. This one would have made a perfect fit in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s.
Lebo tackles the T-Bone Walker warhorse “Stormy Monday” next, delivering the opening verses at a snail’s pace with succulent vocal accents before the pace picks up dramatically with jazz-influenced harp and guitar solos midway. Byron’s accordion drives the cautionary original “Stop Shouting Your Business” next. It comes across with a zydeco feel and the warning that you’ll only make yourself out to be a fool if you do. Listed with a warning for explicit language, it’s actually limited to one four-letter word delivered on a single occasion.
The band gets funky as Lawrence urges a prospective lover to “Give Me A Try,” describing her attributes in the process, before the uptempo shuffle “Bad To The Core” comes across with a driving blues beat. Lebo notes that she used to be good, but not any more, that her man’s got a dark side. It’s only natural that she does, too. The sweet love ballad, “Happy Anniversary, Baby,” follows before a cleaned-up version of “Stop Shouting Your Business” brings the set to a close.
Available from Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, this one’s short and sweet, but will please anyone who enjoy music that’s delivered with a classic upscale jazz-blues feel.
~ Marty Gunther
BLUES IN THE SOUTH
Lawrence Lebo Old School Girl - On the Air Records
Sometimes an album comes along that grabs by the ears and will not let go. This is one of those.
Lawrence Lebo was born and raised in Los Angeles and using one of those awful blues cliches “has paid her dues”. As a single mum she worked small clubs with small bands and clearly learned how to sell a song and to enhance a lyric through her delivery. She has a fabulous voice with a wide range and seems capable of singing the telephone directory and making it sound sexy!
Here with a selected bunch of outstanding musicians, Lawrence gives us straight classic blues, a touch of Cajun and sassy and fiery stuff with a
tad of bad language! The album was produced and mixed by Rich Wenzel at Ardent Audio Productions, chosen because of his familiarity with “Old School” ways of record making. Lawrence is placed in the middle of a super band - the rhythm section (featuring Lawrence’s life partner Denny Croy on bass) and with Hammond B3 organ, outstanding lead guitar, and scintillating blues harp work, the whole thing is a delight.
‘You’ve Got A Secret’ is the opener, a cheating lover song, with Tony Mandracchia (guitar) and Larry David (B3) trading marvellous solos. The title track, is a kind of “these are my influences” track with name checks for Etta James and B.B King. A great song which surely will get some (writing) recognition. The only cover on the album is my very fave - it’s the intro to one of my blues radio shows - T Bone Walker’s classic, ‘Stormy Monday,’ is an exceptional exposition of this great song. Opening as a traditional slow blues after two verses the band is let loose on a double time jam that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up...Sen Say Shun Al.
If you only buy one album this year, make it this one.. You will not regret it!
- Ian K McKenzie
REFLECTIONS IN BLUE
Old School Girl
On The Air Records 9657
Lawrence "Don't Call Me Larry" Lebo has one of those voices that ignites a fire in my soul. Her latest release, Old School Girl hits all the right buttons...sweet guitar work that is not in the least overplayed, a rhythm section that is spot on, tastefully done B-3 and accents with harmonica & accordion in all the right places. This is old-school every step of the way. Assorted blues and soul, with a brief stop in Cajun country make for a tastefully done mix. With the exception of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday", all the album's tunes are original, written by Lebo. This is a woman and a band with something to say...and they say it quite well. Straight- ahead blues and soul, Old School Girl carried me back to the late 1940s & 50s, a time when music had more of a romantic lilt. I cannot stress Lebo's voice enough. It has, if it is at all possible, a soft innocent side, while at the same time, it is sultry, seductive and flat out sexy. Where was this one when I was going to football games on Friday nights and hanging out under the bleachers with my bottles of wine and my case of harmonicas? This band works extremely well together, doing everything they can in support of the work as a whole...realizing that it is the song that is the main objective. This is a band worth going out of your way to see and hear. Congratulations on a job well done. - Bill Wilson