(2015 Lo Marie Music)
Buy this recording here.
Released in January 2015, Solid Ground is the second EP from jazz and pop vocalist and songwriter Lauren Homburg, who lives in Madison and goes by the name Lo Marie, and who has deep connections to Nashville and elsewhere. Let’s hope she doesn’t join the caravan of Madison artists relocating to the Music Capital of the World because this girl has some serious talent. The fact that a jazz –oriented recording – which is a rare thing in Madison to begin with – can fly so low below the radar is astounding, especially one of this caliber, and lends credence to the movement of exceptional talent to other locales.
Lo Marie is a graduate of Vanderbilt where she earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice & Economics. She’s obviously used this combination to great effect. While there she studied under the late Billy Adair, director of jazz studies at Vanderbilt, and played in his professional big band, The Establishment. She also took guitar lessons from Jerry Kimbrough who has served as producer on both Lo Marie releases as well as providing guitar and backing vocals. Kimbrough is one of Nashville’s many go-to session artists. Through his website arrangements can be made to have him provide guitar overdubs to virtually any music project.
Kimbrough and Lo Marie have assembled a stellar collection of top-notch Nashville notables to interpret the six songs (two get alternate mixes) on Solid Ground, five of which were composed by Lo Marie. The centerpiece of this recording is Lo Marie’s soulfully expressive voice, dynamic, powerful and possessing impressive range. The production is crystal clear and expertly arranged, all the instruments breathing in their own space.
The title track is so punchy and funky you’d have to be dead inside to not be moved to shake and dance. Jason Webb’s Hammond B3 organ is sensational, the rhythm section of bassist Danny O’Lannerghty and drummer Scott Williamson is tight as nails as Lo Marie soars. It’s absolutely killer.
“En Amour” is sung in French with a wonderful string section and features lively solos from trumpeter Steve Patrick and violinist Melanie Joy. The solo section echoes the main theme from “Georgia on My Mind.”
“Oak Trees and Olive Branches” is one of two songs that are presented twice as alternate orchestral versions. A complete vocal workout, Lo Marie’s acoustic guitar is central to both arrangements while the strings (which are magnificent on the standard version) are given more space in the orchestral version. Both of the alternate versions feature the violin of David Davidson. “Violet” is the other track getting dual treatment. A torch song at its core, this one simmers with tension as Webb’s Fender Rhodes and Kimbrough’s electric guitar flourishes complement Lo Marie’s fingerpicked acoustic guitar. The addition of the strings on the orchestral version and a much more sparse arrangement occupy the space left by removing guitars and rhythm tracks.
The recording’s lone cover of “That’s Life” gets a modern R&B treatment further showcases Lo Marie’s incredible vocal abilities.
Solid Ground is an exceptional release on the highest order and will certainly be at the top of the list of the year’s best. Lo Marie should be selling out rooms in the city and the fact that she’s almost completely unknown here is a telling indicator of the work that needs to be done in recognizing and supporting Madison’s musical arts.