LZ Love is no stranger to those in the music industry, but she may not be a household name in Texas. That is about to change. Living in Austin Texas by way of San Francisco, she has her Mojo working. LZ's album "My Higher Ground" will be in the stores on Valentine's Day, and there could not be a more fitting release date for this woman with the soulful and passionate vocals. I caught up to her between gigs and we talked about the album, an upcoming movie appearance and a television special.
"My Higher Ground" successfully captures that 'rootsy' sound that Love talks about so often. In fact, she points to her music as being a good fit for Austin. "I am lucky and really blessed because my sound is so welcomed in Austin. I have always liked singers that are very soulful and very 'rootsy'. I have always looked that way musically. I feel that the people can get behind my sound and style. If I was more polished, more hip hop or more pop, I would have a harder time here," she says.
"Our society and the music industry are letting down musically all of our ancestors who have created a sound that has been known to bring people together and to heal them. You could put on BB King's "The Thrill Is Gone" or put on Aretha Franklin's "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" or a Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Working" and those songs would make you feel that whatever you were dealing with or going through, that there was a way out or that you weren't dealing with it alone. It had a way of touching people's souls more. They had a way of bringing people together more. I don't really feel that is the case anymore. It is people all about glamorizing themselves. It's all about oozing sex instead of what makes for a good song."
Love wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this album and she easily communicates that sense of passion with her lyrics and music. Songs such as Words, which recalls a story she was told by a friend who overheard a conversation in a hospital emergency room. I know you are wondering how much credibility a song can have that originates with a third hand story. The lyrics to this song provide all the validation that is necessary. It speaks to the issue of how much damage can be inflicted upon people's lives through careless words. In fact some of the lyrics are lifted right from the original conversation as it was related to Love. She begins to sing the words that first came to her as she wrote the song in her head, "Words from the mouth are like bullets from a gun / you can't take them back./" She then tells me, "So then I added 'So be careful what you say / next time it might come back your way.' I had my chorus and the song just started spinning in my brain. A lot of my songs come to me that way. The melody and the chorus just came together in my mind. Then I worked on my bridge and moved to my keyboard and worked on the kind of groove that I wanted.
The guitar grooves on this song run deep. The beats are awesome and Michael Franti's vocals provide the perfect compliment to Love's, "hey sista" sound that was refined in her days as a member of the Glide Ensemble from San Francisco. Her earlier days in soul music now fuse with tight blues melodies and lyrics that tell a story.
Her second track Something Good continues that theme of hope that she feels the blues need to extend to the listener. If you like guitar work, you will be blown away as this song features three electric guitarists, Charlie Prichard, Greg Patterson and Jay Bowman. The incomparable Eric McCann is the bassist, while keeping the beat is Ernst "Boom" Carter on drums and percussionist Steve LaParta.
My Higher Ground pulls together some of the finest musicians in the country led by Ernst "Boom" Carter who played drums with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, as well as Eric McCann who often can be seen playing bass for Bonnie Raitt. Longtime friend, Tommy Castro, who she first met in San Francisco, is featured on guitar--while Jonathan Korty gets down on the harmonica.
LZ says of her supporting cast, "First of all, I have been blessed. These people love me and I love them. I feel that they are mega talented. On this project I knew who I needed for each song. I knew I needed Eric and Ernst from ground zero to the twelfth song. With Jim, I knew I needed him to color and give me that Hammond B3 sound. Jay Bowman, who I co-produced with, is a phenomenal guitarist. Charlie Prichard is on it (the album). Dave Shul also did some great guitar work. As it happened, all of these people were in town. They are usually in different parts of the world."
What I'm Learning is another one of those songs that Love lifts from her own life. While she was still a child she had to assist in raising her nieces and nephew and in her own words, was forced to grow up fast. She said one of the by-products of that type of environment was she thought she knew it all.
She recalls, "I thought I had enough (knowledge) to get me through a lifetime just from what I was experiencing as a young person. As I have gotten older, I realized that each day brings a new bridge to where you are destined to go or to who you are. It's an everyday process and something to be excited about instead of dreading."
The song puts the spotlight on Korty's harmonica. This is a song the audience will be dancing in the aisles to. If you aren't singing to this song the first time through, you should be checking for a pulse.
The blues songstress has sung for Sharon Stone's wedding a few years ago, as well as at the Stone residence for Christmas day festivities one year. She has provided a rendition of Amazing Grace at the legendary Mary Wells funeral while Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder sat in the audience. To which Love humbly muses, "I'm the one who had to sing Amazing Grace. I still don't understand why I had to sing Amazing Grace and Stevie Wonder is sitting in the audience."
She has shared the stage with as diversified artists as Bonnie Raitt, Sister Sledge, Patti Austin and Billy Preston.
Already in the can is the taping of her performance at Austin's legendary Stubb's Restaurant and performance venue. The date the show will air on Austin's KLRU is still to be announced.
Finally, Love has found her way onto the performance card with SXSW and will be appearing at the Victory Grill. The venue, first established in 1945, served as the launching pad for the careers of B.B. King, Gatemouth Brown, Bobby "Blue" Bland and T-Bone Walker.
As 2006 rolls out, LZ Love is in the words to her title track "pushing on to higher ground." You may want to join her in that endeavor on Saturday, February 18th if you are in the Austin Texas area. She will be officially releasing the CD that night at Jovita's.