The Portland Playlist welcomed award-winning mega talent, Lisa Mann, to the studio Wednesday night. This lady is one mean machine on the Bass and she has the awards to prove it: winner of the 2014 Sean Costello Rising Star Award, three Muddy Waters Awards from the Cascade Blues Association, and the 2015 and 2016 Blues Music Award for Bassist of the Year. She fell in love with the Bass at the young age of 11, saved her pennies to put one on layaway at the local pawn shop, and by age 12, it was hers. You might say the rest is history, or as Veronica coined the phrase, Lisa is a “Bass Playin Buddhist Blues Bad…” and is she ever.
We spent the first hour listening to Lisa’s music influences. She was a dedicated rock and metal head who “grew up in a mosh pit,” but she also liked the music in her parent’s record collection. Her childhood influences ran the gamut from KISS, Janis Joplin, Deep Purple, Ronnie James Dio to Slayer, Barbra Streisand, and Gladys Knight. More recently, she is inspired by Little Milton, Koko Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Etta James, Wayne Baker Brooks, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. She was an ardent fan of the band KISS, had all their posters, and credits the coolness factor of Gene Simmons for being the reason she played the bass. “Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips was getting a lot of airplay on the AM radio dial Lisa would listen to while staying up all night. Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin” was the first song she learned to play from front to back. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out what song played during hers and hubby, Allen Markel’s, first kiss.
Moving into the second hour covered Lisa’s original tracks off “Hard Times, Bad Decisions,” released in May 2016, and 2014’s, “Move On.” Just as Lisa’s influences cover a wide range of genres, so too her original material. While all fit the Blues, there are elements of jazz, soul, and rock within these blues. The title track off the latest album speaks to the karma we inherit vs. the karma we create. While hard times are not our choice, the decisions we make are within our choice. One that is gaining in popularity on the airwaves, is a duet she did with Andy Stokes, “Two Halves of a Broken Heart.” “Play it All the Way” is a Jeff Johnson cover that she just had to do. Johnson is a tattoo artist who wrote the book, “Tattoo Machine, which is full of “tall tales,” and “true stories.” According to Lisa, he wrote two songs that were like an opus rock opera and addresses gambling. She had to cover this song because she was drawn to the imagery of “a man in a Hawaiian shirt screamin’ like a preacher, I’m gonna lay him out, I know I got the winnin’ hand.” She also addresses political and social issues like in “Judge a Man Forever.” This one tackles the Ban-The-Box Campaign to persuade employers to eliminate specific questions on their job applications that may prevent former inmates from gaining legitimate employment upon their release. Lisa draws from a talented pool of musicians on this album; Jason “JT” Thomas, Michael Ballash, Brian Harris, Vinny Appice, Renato Caranto, Chris Mercer, Rae Gordon, Ellen Whyte, Ben Rice, Kirk Fletcher, Steve Kerin, Mary Kadderly, Sonny Hess, and Louis Pain.
Spending two hours with this talented lady feels like five minutes. Whether in a studio or on the stage, she is personable, open, witty, and has story after interesting story to tell. She also has a catalog of accents that she throws out with ease and encourages you to try the same. She has a busy performance schedule and her next show is Thursday, September 8, with Sonny Hess at McMenamins Edgefield Winery. Whether she plays the Main stage at the Waterfront Blues Festival, the intimate setting of Edgefield’s Winery, a club in the U.K., or the popular Jimmy Maks, Lisa Mann gives a performance to please her audience. She’ll belt out a bluesy grit that’ll rock you to your core, or soften the blow with a ballad, but whatever it is, she delivers the goods.
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