Lizz Wright Sings of Liberation & Love on New Album ‘Freedom & Surrender’ [REVIEW + FULL STREAM] by Christopher A. Daniel @lizzwrightmusic @Journalistorian

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Photo by Jesse Kitt

With four albums in just 12 years, singer/songwriter Lizz Wright has consistently captivated audiences with her soothing, full-bodied vocal stylings and honest lyricism. The bronze-skinned songstress’ full-length releases Salt (2003), Dreaming Wide Awake (2005) and The Orchard (2008), all released under the Verve imprint, made Wright synonymous with jazz, while her last project, 2010’s Fellowship, took the Hahira, Georgia-born preacher’s daughter back to her gospel roots.

The release of Wright’s fifth studio LP and debut project for Concord Music Group, Freedom & Surrender, hints that jazz and gospel are merely branches on her musical tree. Freedom & Surrender’s 13 tracks sprinkle Wright’s imaginative words, universal themes and vocal clarity over into a simmering pot of soul, folk, blues and country elements.

Freedom & Surrender was originally conceptualized to be an album of cover tunes. Each listening experience, on the other hand, turns into an eargasm of beautifully crafted tunes that reflects Wright’s recent move from Brooklyn to the rural South. The brown girl with the clear voice and shoulder-length dreadlocks is taking a moment in her career to smell the roses. Written and recorded primarily with veteran Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein (Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Madeline Peyroux), Freedom & Surrender also enlists an incredible array of writers like Jesse Harris, David Batteau, Maia Sharp, JD Souther and Toshi Reagon to give Wright’s listeners a robust glimpse into what it’s like to know and feel love in every capacity.

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Photo by Jesse Kitt

On “Freedom,” Wright sings directly to liberation as if it were a close girlfriend over percussive funk. “Somewhere Down the Mystic” is a tranquil, India.Arie-styled acoustic ballad that evolves into a gargantuan, cymbal-crashing pop number. Its distant relative, “Real Life Painting,” is a metaphoric explanation of making music and songwriting that could very well be an ode to 1970s singer/songwriters like James Taylor, Carole King or Janis Ian. “The New Game” channels ‘60s soul music instrumentation and lush gospel choir harmonies.

Other moments on Freedom & Surrender allow Wright to reveal her more romantic side. “Lean In” allows the 35-year-old vocalist to pair her breathy, seductive vocals in a slightly lower register with pattering snares and a heavy bass groove. The five-plus minute cut is Wright pleading with her love interest to give their love to her. The sultry slow jam “Right Where You Are” features singer Gregory Porter. Wright even covers Nick Drake’s “River Man” with a smooth jazz makeover and reincarnates The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” as if the song were a Sunday morning selection.

In its entirety, Freedom & Surrender is an eclectic collection that defines a new chapter in Wright’s musical catalog. She brilliantly captures a mood for any listener or fan that constantly seeks simplicity in their lives or takes those frequent moments to self-reflect about what matters most.

Grade: B+

Notable Tracks: “Lean In” | “Right Where You Are” | “Somewhere Down the Mystic” | “The New Game”

BUY Lizz Wright’s Freedom & Surrender via Amazon | iTunes

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