Personifying soul, passion and charisma, Dee Lavell might be the latest name on the Australian soul and blues scene, but she’s definitely not the new kid on the block. A seasoned performer with more than 25 years experience on stage and in the studio in Australia and the US, Dee is releasing her new album, MAMA TOLD ME, on May 21.
“My mother was the musical one in our family; she loved to sing in the local church choir and played piano at home…” Dee proudly showcases the influence of her mother, who passed away in 2011, and to whom her album is dedicated. Although encouraged and supported by her mother through piano, cello, flute and voice lessons, it was only after 10 years in a nursing career that Dee finally became a professional singer in the 1990s.
Dee was a member of Sydney-based soul/funk group The Honeybees along with Belle Hendrik and Tina Harrod; sang in Mother Jive with Liza Ohlback; and headed up her own band, Totally Funked Up, with Calvin Welch and Eric Rasmussen.
Based in Los Angeles for 10 years, Dee worked with musicians and singers who were also playing with India Arie, Nika Costa, Barry White, Macy Gray and Stevie Wonder, and she sang in sessions for former Motown producers Frank Wilson, Clay Drayton and Laythan Armor. "Dee Lavell is a singer's singer,” said the late Ali 'Ollie' Woodson of The Temptations.
She released a gospel CD, Sanctified, in 1995 and living in LA enabled Dee to immerse herself in singing with various gospel church choirs and hone her deeply resonant soulful sound.
Since returning to Australia, Dee has sung in support gigs for big names including Renee Geyer and Cotton Keays & Morris; reunited regularly with members of The Honeybees and Mother Jive; and performed her own gigs around Northern NSW, where she is currently based.
MAMA TOLD ME, her powerful new album produced by Geoff Wright, features eleven blistering soul and blues tracks. Seven are original songs that Dee wrote in the aftermath of her divorce and her mother’s death and in the exploration of new loves and adventures as a working mother.
“Friday Night” describes the special time and place Dee allowed herself each week during the period when she cared for her ill mother. “So I Walked” is a candid and affecting account of having to finally give up on a failed marriage. And “Stop, Don’t Say It” is about recognising the damaging effects of a new relationship that is both exciting and toxic at the same time.
The album also includes the beautiful Skip Scarborough song, “Love Ballad”, Eric Clapton’s heart-wrenching “Broken Down”, and the gospel traditional “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. “I had to do my version of it,” says Dee, “to say that we all have choices in our lives.”