The Soul Seen: Lizz Wright

The Soul Seen is a retrospective of features that appeared on ISPYSOUL during its acclaimed initial run. These features provide a snapshot in time of key moments in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of several creative and talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find still resonate today.

From the original ISPYSOUL monthly feature, WATCH CLOSELY, 2003

Lizz Wright
A “Savory” Delight

With the distinguishable sounds of the busy, Saturday afternoon, New York City streets stirring in the background, singer/songwriter Liz Wright makes a cell phone conversation on the fly feel like a comfy lounge setting. The knack for doing so has no doubt become a necessary skill for the 23 year old, Georgia native who leading up to her highly anticipated debut release, imageSalt, has been causing quite a stir of her own and demanding a lot of attention. With the same seasoned vibe that permeates each track of the solid CD and her entrancing vocals, Wright speaks of the recent whirlwind as, “an exciting thing.” “Sometimes the momentum is really overwhelming, but I’m really grateful.”

Salt, the appropriate name for her tasty collection of revamped standards and stunning originals proves Wright a worthy recipient of the new found opportunity. Her voice, which recalls her roots in gospel blended with a soulful sound and innate jazz facility, refined in the same Atlanta scene that brought us Donnie, Julie Dexter and India.Arie, represents her musical travels. Her telling, personal, and poetic lyrics reflect her life’s travels. Travels that account for a sound, delivery and genuineness that belie her youthful years. “I’ve experienced a lot in my life and I don’t try to line it up with someone else’s experiences, but I will say that I’ve been through a lot in a little bit of time,” says Wright. “I try to be very real about the fact that I’m young, but I don’t let people push me in a corner and say ‘you’re wet behind the ears or blah, blah, blah.’ I’ve been through some things and God gives me the opportunity to gain wisdom from my life just like everybody else. And if I’m eager to gain wisdom, then I’ll gain it. She adds,” I think I’ve been through enough to get some thing out of it.” It’s quite obvious she has and aptly pours it all into each song, convincingly illustrated in her soulful remixes of the Flora Purim classic, “Open Your Eyes” and traditional gospel piece, “Walk With Me Lord” or in the moving rendition of the
timeless standard, “Afro Blue.”

But the poignancy of the life lessons Wright has learned truly reveal themselves in her own material, particularly the title cut, “Salt.” This slow, but swing filled, New Orleans style blues plays host to Wright’s rich, haunting tone as she sings, “How can you lose song/When you’ve sung it so long/How can you forget your dance/When that dance is all you ever had/It must be true/You can’t separate the two/It’s impossible to do/Just like the salt that’s in the stew/It’s all a part of you/One thing that life can’t do/It can’t take your song from you.” Wright, who was raised under strict religious conventions and watch of a minister father, views this as a sort of a personal well of motivation. “It was the first year out of my parents house and I was  living in Atlanta and I just felt very bothered and nervous about the idea of having lived such a sheltered life and now I’m out in this colorful world with so many questions that I didn’t have answers to. I was sitting at a rehearsal piano in a studio and I started plucking out this little silly song for myself. I didn’t know [at the time] it would be what it was, but it’s turned out to be something that has kind of held me together throughout this whole journey. And it’s kind of been the meaning of my whole journey and experience.”

The stars have truly aligned right on time for Wright whose arresting talents have raised her from virtual unknown to what some have heralded as the next big vocal icon. The praise is of course flattering and she does want success for Salt, but the more immediate hope is far more modest. “I just hope that people will get a piece of what I’ve learned and experienced along the way. I’ve found myself going from being worried and looking for a genre or a box or a place to fit in to feeling very liberated and very thankful that all these elements make up who I am. And I’m still exploring. And I hope people will find on their own inside my music.” It appears Liz Wright has the right ingredients for a bright future.

Bert Caldwell

copyright ISPYSOUL.COM 2015 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

and now,

Well that bright future forecasted for Lizz Wright has long since been proven true. Her distinctive, soulfully rich and arresting voice has now won over scores of faithful fans and earned her chart-topping success as well as critical acclaim. Her recordings, now five deep (Salt, Dreaming Wide Awake, The Orchard, Fellowship) including her latest and first for label Concord, Freedom and Surrender, imagehave seen her weave her instrument through a tapestry of Soul, Jazz, Gospel, Blues, and Folk while at the same time displaying an equally affecting writing style that provides a window to the travels in her life. For more on Lizz Wright’s latest, below is a video courtesy of Concord that provides some insight into its making.

This has been a look back @ the soul seen

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