BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
Lisa Mann resides in Portland, Oregon, and has been a mainstay of the Pacific Northwest music scene for several years. She was inducted into the Cascade Blues Association’s Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2011 she and her Really Good Band represented the CBA at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis where they were semifinalists. Mann plays bass, sings, contributed nine tracks and covered four tunes on her latest CD, Satisfied. Lisa also produced this fine (and diverse) disc. Her solid band is made up with Jeff Knudson’s guitar, Michael Ballash’s drumming, and Brian Harris’ keys. Fellow Northwesterner Lloyd Jones also makes an appearance adding his distinctive voice and guitar.
I caught up with Mann not long after she released her second CD.
Robert Putignano for BluesWax: Are you doing alright, Lisa?
Lisa Mann: I am.
BW: Satisfied is your second release?
LM: Yes, but I’ve done a few other releases before that were compilations. Plus I write stuff that’s all over the map that I’ve released locally here in the Northwest, too. I’ve recently decided to narrow things down and market to the blues and blues-rock. That’s when things started to change and took off for me.
BW: I’d say! Before hearing Satisfied I hadn’t heard of you, but one of our WFDU DJs [EB Fisher] mentioned you and I then saw your CD on the Blues Revue list for potential review and I got it from Art Tipaldi [Blues Revue editor]. I was pleasantly surprised. Chip Eagle [Blues Revue and BluesWax publisher] also had previously mentioned your name, so I asked him to put us in touch, and very quickly – you called me!
LM: I actually was at a diner in Jersey when Chip called me, can you believe it? I am originally from West Virginia, so I have some redneck roots. I was raised in a Jewish family, we had a bumper sticker in West Virginia that said: “Shalom You All.” There’s actually a pretty big Jewish community there. My folks broke up and I moved out here with my mom so I pretty much grew up in the Northwest. I now consider myself a “Webfoot.”
BW: A Webfoot?
LM: They call us “Webfoots,” like a duck, because it’s raining here all the time.
BW: Okay, but getting to your latest CD, it’s really a good one.
LM: Well, thank you!
BW: Has this band been together for a while?
LM: Yeah! We’ve been doing this for a while with this configuration, Brian Harris on keyboards, Michael Ballash on drums, and Jeff Knudson (who has been with me for the whole time) on guitar. Prior to this band we had a different keyboard player and drummer who ran off to run with the Insomniacs band for Delta Groove. I was tied down for a while taking care of my mom, but now I’m free to travel a bit more and get out to do some festival gigs around the country.
BW: But, like Lloyd Jones (who appears on your record), you keep pretty busy regionally?
LM: Exactly. Lloyd and I run into each other often. That’s how that duet song with Lloyd Jones, “Always Nobody,” unfolded. It’s based on some hilarious things I heard him say. He likes to tell stories like when he travels overseas where there he attracts larger audiences, but when he returns back home, no one shows up. So I thought that would make for a great song. So a year later I run into Lloyd again and he was telling me that he would tell people to come to his gigs because there’s plenty of parking! So with that comment I finished the song. If your WFDU radio listeners and readers at BluesWax go to www.CDBaby.com, they can download “Always Nobody” for free. But hurry as it will only be there for another month or so.
BW: And people can find out more about Lisa at www.LisaMannMusic.com, too. Speaking of Lloyd Jones, he was a good interview and quite the character as well.
LM: Lloyd’s great!
BW: But setting up Lloyd’s interview took some doings and he called me at home, he wasn’t a man of many words, so I was a bit concerned. But long story short: we had a ball doing the interview!
LM: I guess he wanted to figure out what you were going to ask him.
BW: I’m easy; I just like to hear what makes musicians tick. Other than this new CD, what’s next for Lisa Mann?
LM: Satisfied has actually been out since February. There’s a funny story though. We planned a CD release party and working with Jen Taylor [graphic designer] who did the graphics for the disc. We went back and forth and thought we had it right, but there were two songs sequenced wrong!
BW: So what did you do?
LM: I ordered a thousand more!
BW: Just what a musician needs is more expenses and debt.
LM: You know they are selling pretty good, so I am not too worried about it.
BW: Where do you sell most of them, from the stage?
LM: A lot of discs are sold at festivals and gigs, but we sell a decent amount of digital downloads, and some people contact us who don’t want to go on a Web site and want a physical copies the old-fashioned way by mailing a check. So it’s a mixed bag of where the sales come from.
BW: I always try to encourage people to buy discs off the stage and cut the middleman out.
LM: Oh yeah, but I have to say that I am also happy with www.CDBaby.com There’s been some ownership changes there, but for the most part they’ve kept the same good practices of the past.
BW: Back to your music: You’ve got it all going on, you sing, write, produce, and play bass, you are a quadruple threat!
LM: Why, thank you! There’s a lot of juggling going on here!
BW: I address a lot of this in my upcoming Blues Revue magazine review of your disc.
LM: Fantastic, thank you.
BW: I also thought your selection of covers were pretty crafty, too.
LM: “Satisfied” is a Little Milton song. I have to say the first time I heard Little Milton sing was a revelation for me, my skin just tingled. I loved the way he would start out singing softly and then would roar like a lion.
BW: And he played a sweet, soulful, and funky guitar too.
LM: I loved his guitar too, but for me it was his voice that really knocked me out.
We also covered my friend Jeff Johnson’s “Gamblin’ Virgin Mary.” Jeff’s an interesting cat that I’ve done some singer-songwriter gigs with. I asked him if I could record it, he said yes, and it’s been one of my favorite songs to perform live; it also seems the audiences love it too. We always say that we hope the Catholics in the crowd won’t get offended. [Laughs]
BW: Who is the writer Peter W. Allen?
LM: Peter W. Allen was an Australian songwriter who wrote a lot of songs for Melissa Manchester.
BW: Oh the prolific writer Peter Allen, got it, he wrote a bunch of songs that were covered by many.
LM: Yes, and we covered his “Alone” that was on a Melissa Manchester record. He was one of my mother’s favorite artists and it was one of her favorite songs, so I recorded it for her memory.
BW: The middle initial threw me off.
LM: I love that chord progression.
BW: And “Don’t Touch Me” by Maxwell Davis, Sam Ling, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson is cool, too. How’d you find that one?
LM: I just found it on a Johnny “Guitar” Watson record and it just struck me. He was another great guitar player who again for me it was his voice. His voice influenced Etta James, and you can hear the way he screamed and his inflections.
BW: He ran the gamut.
LM: Oh yeah, and he lost his mind.
BW: I spoke to several musicians that knew him who told me got way out of control. You know he died onstage while touring Japan in the mid to late nineties?
LM: That’s a shame.
BW: There are two or three really good DVD live performances of him as well.
LM: I didn’t know, I need to check them out. I should checkout to see if there’s some Youtube’s of his, too.
BW: Your new album is titled Satisfied. Are you?
LM: I’m pretty damn satisfied!
BW: I hope your husband feels that way?
LM: I hope he does too! [Laughs] He hasn’t been complaining.
BW: There you go. If I might ask: how old are you?
LM: Are you asking a lady’s age?
LM: Let’s just say that I’ve been playing the bass for thirty years.
BW: And you started at one-year old!
LM: How’d you know? [More laughs]
BW: I see you’ve been getting a good amount of airplay, too.
LM: Not bad, I want to get out and tour the country more though.
BW: Have you ever played in and around here in the New York area?
LM: I haven’t, but plans are in the works. Let the brainstorming begin!
BW: I feel that more good things are coming your way Lisa, as you have what it takes to appeal to a wide array of audiences.
LM: Thank you, I try.
BW: I know you do, I bet you make it onto several 2012 top ten DJ/journalists lists. You will be on mine.
LM: Thanks for your support Bob!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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