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Lizanne Knott

Excellent Day – 2016 (Proper)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Lizanne Knott

Better known for her folk leanings, Lizanne Knott's sophomore release, "Excellent Day," takes things back to her roots, exploring the wide Americana soundscape with hints of blues, gospel and jazz. And while that diversity may bog down some artists, Knott manages it with ease, letting her smooth, smoky vocals and sublime songwriting do the heavy lifting with added support from Grammy Award-winning producer Glenn Barratt.

The title track stands as cornerstone and inspiration here, the lazy, New Orleans flavored jam written by Knott's longtime friend and guitarist, Jef Lee Johnson, who died unexpectedly three years ago and inspired the artist to explore her roots. Those roots emerge from the very get-go with the slow burning "Come For the Kill" with its rich vocal flow and moody guitar lines while "Why You Wanna" displays a jazz sentiment alongside lyrics of heartbreak.

Vintage Americana is displayed on the subtle "Goodbye," acoustic guitar and jazzy flavors stealing the show before Knott offers up a Deep South reworking of Gershwin's "Ain't Necessarily So," the swampy vibes a perfect accompaniment to her honeyed delivery. It's the perfect fit for her talents, and Knott sings it to perfection, making it a must listen.

"Tennessee" is another strong track, recalling the simple, honest artistry of a band like The Civil Wars with its stark arrangement and poignant lyrics that Knott delivers in earnest. Those powerful lines echo those of "Sometimes" as Knott lets her lyric do the work, showing her gift for writing. She takes a bluesy turn on "Not This Time," the tasteful trumpet tones underscoring her flirtatious vocals while "Lay My Burden Down" is a great acoustic gospel jam, the simple call and response rendered warm and heartfelt.

There are a few misses here, most notably "Rainbow Crow" and "Stolen Car," which feel a little one note, but they're definitely the exception. The greater portion instead ripples with southern charm, Knott's soulful songwriting and emotive voice holding court over a palette of Americana colors that she makes full use of.