Noted producer Craig Street (k.d. lang, Norah Jones) is one of the guiding forces behind The Lock Stock and Soul EP, a remarkable, gear-changing project from New Yorker Alyssa Graham. Her jazz training (and 2008 album Echo) are now in the rear view mirror as she explores musical paths originally defined in her teens: classic pop songcraft influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Nick Drake -- even her not-so-secret passion for, wait for it...The Grateful Dead. This new four-track EP, due August 23 on iTunes, is a glimpse at Graham's forthcoming longplayer, an all-too-brief but promising collection that includes two originals written with longtime musical partner Doug Graham along with a stark, intimate cover of The Dead's "High Time." Jesse Harris, best known for his work with Norah Jones, guests in the studio on a duet of his own "Watching the Sky."
The sessions for the album and EP were mostly tracked live with the musicians -- including bassist MeShell Ndegeocello and two members of her band -- facing each other live in the studio. But it wasn't until the basic recordings were done that Street told Graham that the vocals, thought by her to be simply "scratch vocals" sung to accompany the band, were what he actually wanted for the finished versions. That relaxed, understated quality of Graham's singing is a big part of what makes these songs special. "Exploded View" becomes a delicate, gently swaying confection of nuanced melody. "Til My Heart Quakes" a shimmering, whisper-soft dream so close and personal you can practically feel Graham's breath on your ear. But as sweetly inviting as these tracks are you're never left with a sugary aftertaste proving once again the dusty maxim about less being usually more in the end. The elegantly but simply prepared fare of Lock Stock and Soul can be consumed -- and savored -- in the natural and organic form. And it's nice to know that this is just the appetizer. We'll wait patiently for the main course to be served in January.
Alyssa Graham - "Exploded View" (from Lock Stock and Soul)
Listen to excerpts of Lock Stock and Soul at the Alyssa Graham website.