How I Spent My Summer Vacation
I keep calling How I Spent my Summer Vacation a record or an album–and I mean it in the old-school sense of those words: a document conceived and crafted, best taken not just as a collection of songs, but rather a careful collection of compositions, players, and circumstances, all guided with a storyteller's intent.
How I Spent my Summer Vacation tells universal stories: stories about the progression of relationships (both with others and with one's self); stories about how sad being alone is; stories about how sad not being alone can be; stories, too, about how exhilarating both states can be. And all of these stories find their place in Lissa’s own story, a story of music and the love, growth and acceptance in an artist’s heart.
Right out the gate there's trouble: Lissa’s brother, Cleve Hattersley, weighs in with his biting and rueful "Love is a Crime Scene"
"A crime has been committed here/I know the victim's name/it's meeee..."
And then, in Tony Airoldi's wonderful "Talking in Your Sleep", we meet a couple that isn't communicating very well—at least not while they're awake.
Lissa gives us a little break with her own "Reverie," a gorgeous and impressionistic song that comes to us on the tail of a moonbeam...
It's a good thing she did, too, because now we careen from infatuation (Marc Black's "Moonstruck Love", a perfect deer-in-the-headlights-I'm-in-love R&B pop song) to closing time and not quite enough alcohol in Lissa's own hilarious and funky "There's No Fool."
I first heard the great and under-appreciated standard "Shake Down the Stars," lovingly treated by Sarah Vaughan, and I was struck by both the desperate loneliness of the lyrics and the lush beauty of the composition. Lissa's delicately aching version features great solo turns by violinist Sweet Mary Hattersley and guitar great Chris Duarte.
From desperate to defiant, Tex Thomas writes to that part of every musician that's wild and free (and maybe even a little bit mean) and gets it exactly right: there's a "Fugitive Animal" in every single one of us... and it's true, we do take a certain pride in it.
But sometimes even the wild ones get adopted, and Ned Sublette's beautiful "Nightworker's Song (Blue Time)," is a lovely tribute to small and lasting pleasures.
Next up is another song from Cleve Hattersley, this one from the early Greezy Wheels songlist. "Peace in the Valley" offers a quiet and gentle vision, a sort of promise of heaven.
When we return to earth for the closing tune, "Whatever Way You Want It" (penned by the late and lamented Dan del Santo), we get The Professor's ode to cheerful and earthy acceptance, and we realize we've been on a journey–a quite memorable one.
The musicians on this record -- well, there are highlights everywhere, but just off the top of my head I'd direct you to the dreamily discursive horns of "Talking in Your Sleep" while Frosty's drumming providing a sly and knowing percussive Greek Chorus throughout -- just startling, splendid work! For that matter, check out Paul Pearcy's groove on "There's No Fool" -- that's New York funk, Texas style. There is no way on earth you can describe that feeling to a drummer, it's a DNA thing.
Or check out that 4 bars of trombone madness from Jon Blondell on "Crime Scene"! -- or dig John Mills, featured throughout, delivering one great, stirring solo after another, as well as contributing all sorts of cool little ensemble touches. Mills is a miracle, and not just a minor one, either.
Chris Gage not only co-produced, engineered, and mixed the record, but evidence of his stunning musicianship can be found everywhere -- piano, guitar (check out his scary dog guitar on "Fugitive", or his perfect piano dialog with Lissa in "Reverie" -- that's the same musician! Great player, and a joy to work with.
Oh, it goes on and on. It's a killer record. Lissa would be the first to tell you if it is, it's because of everybody's contribution, and that's true enough, I suppose. But I was there from it's first little glimmer, and I can tell you: this is Lissa's record, through and through. The songs weren't yet chosen, and she had little or no idea how, when, or who, but she described to me a record of songs by writers she loved and wanted to honor, played by players she loved playing with, or knew she was gonna love playing with if she could just get up the nerve to call them!
Well she called, and they came, and we all played, and at last, at long last, it is my great pleasure and honor to present you with Lissa Hattersley's debut as a solo artist.
(John's the bass player on this CD)