Last week’s The Portland Playlist, featured a special playlist and Drop-In Session. We’ll tell you more about that playlist, but first, let’s talk about the Drop-In Session. We first heard Lilla years ago when she would sing with Nahko & Medicine for the People, and the Max Ribner Band, at familiar places like the Goodfoot. In 2014, she performed on the Miller Main Stage at the Waterfront Blues Festival, in a performance that drew the crowd to her like bees to a hive. We were thrilled to see that she would be back at this year’s Blues Fest, performing on the First Tech Blues Stage on Saturday, July 2nd.
We were there behind the lens to witness another captivating performance by Lilla and her band. Given current world affairs, most of the artists at this year’s Blues Fest spoke to the need for more love and unity in our world. Lilla was one such artist delivering this message throughout her set, exuding love in her performance and receiving it back from an appreciative audience. No longer living in Portland, we were fortunate that she stayed in town long enough to stop by the studio to catch up and play a few songs live.
Lilla is an artist who has two self-produced albums under her belt with another in the works. At 6, she taught herself to play the piano by ear, by age 12 she was singing in her local gospel choir followed by an East Coast tour with the internationally recognized, Royal Blues . It was at Berklee College of Music that she received more formal training. One week after graduating, she released her second album, “The Awakening.” This album was recorded all over the globe, from Bob Marley’s studio, Tuff Gong in Jamaica, to Portland. It “is a celebration of the power of music and its ability to connect musicians, cultures and people from around the globe.” She has shared the stage with Thievery Corporation, Ciara, Damian & Stephen Marley, Talib Kweli, Trombone Shorty, Esperanza Spalding, the Wu-Tang Clan, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Annie Lennox, Willie Nelson, Carole King, Kenny G, and Boyz II Men.
Joining her in the studio were Ramsey Embick on keys; Alex Staley, bass; Samuel Eisen-Meyers, guitar; and Joby Tijerina, trumpet. The first song they performed, “Wake Up,” is one you could say addresses our current times even though it was recorded a couple of years ago. It was written because we all need an awakening of some sort, “there’s “so much distraction… someone open the blinds, let the light shine down,” we may dream of pearls and diamonds but “you know we need to wake up!” This song never fails to generate a resounding applause from the audience. The next one, “I Changed My Mind,” was conceived a little differently. The music was written first by musician friends in Boston with Lilla adding the lyrics and melody later. It has to do with losing our path, giving too much of ourselves before realizing the importance and value of self-love. The next song is a really fun one, “You Let Me Down,” a remix of Billie Holiday’s, one of Lilla’s influences. She took the song and added a hip-hop beat with added lyrics, to give it a modern spin. With their Blues Festival performance still fresh, they finished with the fantastic, “Trouble in Mind.”
The hour went quickly and before we knew it, we were at the end of the program. It was a pleasure having her and the guys in the studio and we can’t wait for their next Portland appearance. Lilla may return by summer’s end and we certainly hope she does. You can keep tabs on where she’ll be from her website and Facebook page. Next time she’s in town, we hope you can make it to a Lilla show because it is one special show!
You can see a live clip of their performance at the Waterfront Blues Festival here, https://www.facebook.com/teri.briggs.3/videos/10209882518440834/
Now we’ll take you back to where last week’s show started. With a nod to Neil Young’s recent observation that protest songs were no longer broadcast on the airwaves, PRP took this as a challenge and curated a playlist of protest songs from past to present. In celebration of Independence Day, this playlist was broadcast for 24 hours on July 4th. The Portland Playlist took it a step further and crafted a playlist featuring some of those songs and a few others, playing them for the first hour of the show. You can listen to that segment below.
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