Lisa Richards,
Not Quite So Low
(self-produced, 1997)

Although a little difficult to say exactly what musical category this album falls into, Not Quite So Low shows a good amount of depth and variety by singer-songwriter Lisa Richards. The quality of sound on this album is remarkable, especially considering its self-produced and self-financed nature. Richards has a rich, clear voice and knows how to use it, singing with power and conviction. Most of her songs have a folk-like sound to them, but there were a good number that would likely fare well in the world of pop.

Born in Australia, Richards moved to Austin, Texas, in 1998, and has since spent a good deal of time touring with her band throughout Australia and the United States. She provides all of the vocals on the album, and brings in a variety of musicians to play bass, drums and percussion, guitar, keyboard and violin.

Making this a true solo effort, the majority of songs on the album are written by Richards herself or in collaboration with Greg Reeves. The opening song "So Long" is one of my favorites. Richard's distinctive voice shines amid a good arrangement of acoustic guitar, and the tune is a catchy one. At first listen, I was not too fond of the second tune, "I Don't Think So" (it sounds rather dark and dreary, especially in contrast to the first track). However, once I listened to the words, I decided that the instrumentals are well-suited, the lyrics clearly being from the perspective of someone in an abusive relationship.

"Sweet Time" is a very singable song about relationships, but would be more effective without the keyboard accompaniment -- it simply seems to be in the way at times. "I Can See Love" has meaningful lyrics and a cheerful tune, and isn't your classic mushy love song. Here, Richards talks about different kinds of love in the world. "Is This Love," although higher on the "mushiness" scale, does have a catchy tune to it. In "Waif," Richards displays the excellent range of her voice with some stunning vocals.

Without a doubt, Richards has a lovely and unique voice and exceptional talent as a songwriter. I especially enjoyed her more acoustic songs. There were a few songs on the album however, which I found to be a little on the monotonous side. "Don't Tear Me Down" and "Rise" both have melodious choruses, but I feel the verses to be lacking something in terms of a tune. "Plain Gold Ring," written by George Stone, has very little instrumentation, and Lisa's vocals are exceptional; however, I found myself wondering when it was going to end -- there simply wasn't enough of a tune for my liking.

Not Quite So Low is a good first album for Lisa Richards. She combines her powerful voice with a talent for songwriting. Although I felt some of the songs to be lacking a good melody, this is likely more due to my zest for instrumentals than to any fault of Richards'. She is an expressive singer with a good variety of material which can be appreciated by fans of folk and pop music alike.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]