A staple of the Philadelphia jazz and singer-songwriter scenes since 2004, Lili Añel is back this spring with Another Place, Another Time — her first outing since 2013’s I Can See Bliss From Here. It’s her first EP and her eighth release overall, and it is a warm and inviting set, incorporating inspired arrangements and a throwback sound for an instantly classic effect.
The EP is inspired in part by the passing of Philly guitarist Jef Lee Johnson; Añel covers his “Traffic Jam In a One-Horse Town” in tribute and dedicates her own song “I’ll Never Forget You” to her late friend. It is also a testament of living one’s life to the fullest and continuing to push forward, and even 20 years out from her debut record, Añel tries new things on Another Place — from falsetto delivery to vocal improv.
With an EP release celebration tomorrow night, May 6th, at Wilmington’s World Cafe Live at the Queen, Añel and I swapped emails to discuss the new album and the inspiration that fuels it. Continue reading →
Folk-pop singer-songwriter Heyward Howkins heads home tonight to celebrate the release of his new record Be Frank, Furness at Johnny Brenda’s. In a recent interview with Jason’s Jukebox, Howkins discussed his transition to becoming a solo artist following his work with The Trouble With Sweeney, Philly’s influence and calls the city “the perfect combination of size, culture, historical significance and even natural beauty”. Get a feel for his sound via the record’s title track “Be Frank, Furness” and get tickets to the show here.
There’s a definite hope implicit in the title of Lili Añel’s new CD, I Can See Bliss From Here. But in its image of a happiness on the horizon, there’s also a dark undertone, an admission that bliss is still something far off, something that needs to be journeyed towards.
That darker side is understandable given what the Philly-based singer-songwriter has lived through in the four years since her last release, 2009’s Every Second in Between. In rapid succession she lost both her job and her hair, the results of the recent economic crisis and her long-running battle with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. After all that, Añel could be forgiven for losing sight of anything resembling bliss, but has maintained an admittedly bitter-tinged optimism.
“If you can see bliss, it’s attainable, one would think,” Añel says. “It’s either something you’re going to or something you might never get to. Can you climb the wall, can you get over all the stuff you’re going through? That’s up to the listener. I think bliss is attainable.”
Añel will be celebrating the release of I Can See Bliss From Here upstairs at World Café Live on Thursday night, with special guest John Lilley of The Hooters sitting in with a band led by her co-producer on the album, Dale Melton of the Melton Brothers. Añel initially met Melton’s twin brother Dennis after a show in Kennett Square in 2007, and confused the two when she later met Dale – a mix-up she’s well acquainted with as a twin herself.
Melton proposed that she record some songs in his Chester County home studio, a suggestion Añel initially greeted with some trepidation.
“When most musicians say, ‘I have a studio,’ you go into their bedroom or basement and they’ve got a couple computers set up and some comforters on the wall,” she says. “Not the case. Dale has a full studio. When you look at the outside it’s a barn, and when you walk through the doors it’s like entering a whole other world.”
Initially intending to test the waters with a couple of songs, they emerged from Melton’s Sandbox at Buck Hollow Farm with the twelve soulful, deeply-felt songs on I Can See Bliss From Here, which fully capture the trials and joys Añel has been living through. The album also includes two covers: a version of Ray LaMontagne’s “This Love is Over” and “Today,” a song by Philly guitar great Jef Lee Johnson, who passed away in January. “Jef was supposed to play on this record,” says Añel, who hopes to record a whole album of Johnson’s songs. “I loved his playing. He had a discography a mile long, and his music was so influential to me. We often talked about wanting the world to hear our music. He was a brilliant songwriter, and I wanted the world to hear him on my record.”
Whether it was the studio’s bucolic surroundings, the hardships of the last several years, or simply Añel’s songwriting gifts, Bliss is the songwriter’s most personal effort to date. Continue reading →
Summer is festival season in the jazz world, and with the city having hosted its few contributions back in April that leaves a pretty sparse calendar for anyone not heading down the shore. There are quite a few standout shows this month, though – and one festival, albeit one with a more local focus. Continue reading →
Philly/Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Joy Ike heads out to Phoenixville for a show at Steel City Coffeehouse tonight. A few days ago Ike posted a newsletter update in which she announced news of a new album, her first in four years following 2013’s All or Nothing. Tickets and information for tonight’s set, which opens Lili Añel’s record release show, can be found here. Watch Ike perform “Walk” below.
Philly’s Camae Defstar is the longtime organizer of the ROCKERS series, and also creates aggressive spoken-word sound-art under the name Moor Mother, which just signed to Don Giovanni Records. Tonight, the final ROCKERS happens at
Community Futures Lab Everybody Hits, and Moor Mother performs along with The Kominas and Ghetto Songbird. More information can be found at Facebook; listen to “Deadbeat Protest” below.