Lillian Leadbetter – State of Romance
The music of Lillian Leadbetter is quite ethereal & falls in line with music by Jane Siberry. Soft, intense & hauntingly melodic. Lillian’s voice is treated somewhat but her expressive vocals are well-modified in this showcase. She goes for atmosphere & mood more than showboating & range. This is evident in “Doesn’t Hurt,” while a more rural sound takes shape in “Sophia,” where Ms. Leadbetter writes a beautifully expressive narrative.
Her 8-track State of Romance (Drops Oct 13–Independent) debut was produced by Lillian with Eli Gold (guitar/piano/bass). Recorded in Burlington, VT, Ms. Leadbetter’s voice is artistically defined & perfectly rendered through each melody. She may consider lightening up a little & “getting into it” rather than performing the tune so perfectly.
Her intonation & phrasing is exquisite but there’s little in the way of dynamics in the words. She emphasizes well & understands which words are important. Her sincerity does come through wonderfully. But I wish her personality would infuse the lines more deeply.
She should get more exuberant with certain lyrics. This is where Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley & even Janis Joplin excelled. The drama in certain words becomes evident. “American Sweetheart,” is a wonderfully performed song. The music & musicians together are strong & the arrangement has everything a singer like Lillian needs. Delivery is a performance like acting.
Lillian Leadbetter’s vocals on this CD are pristine & well-recorded. Fortunately, she doesn’t sound like the standard contemporary vocalists vying for the Top 10. She’s trying to create something a little more elevated. She has substance & style.
I hear the character just below the surface. Maybe what Lillian needs is to sing show tunes that force & engage a singer to go beyond the lyrics & above the melody. To add the necessary characterization to come alive. Lillian has exceptional songs in her repertoire. Her voice is meticulous, expressive & gloriously passionate. She has the instincts of a Laura Nyro but not the instinctive jazzier tones.
Her LP State of Romance has no blemishes – each tune is an essence of Lillian’s charm & it translates. It’s a smart recording that requires a little more diversification. Everything else is quite superb & enjoyable.
Highlights – “Doesn’t Hurt,” “Sophia” & “American Sweetheart.”
Musicians – Ben Rodgers (pedal steel/piano/banjo), Phil Cohen (guitar), Sebastian Selame (guitar/electronic drums), Dan Ryan (drums), Conner Young (trumpet/flugelhorn), Marie Hamilton (harp), Jacob Weiss (fiddle) & Sophia Cirignano (narrator).
Cover image by Whitney Tracey. CD @ Bandcamp & https://www.lillianleadbettermusic.com/