Philadelphia based singer Lili Añel has a myriad of albums and song writing awards behind her and her ninth and latest album, Better Days, demonstrates why her career has such longevity. A mix of Lili’s trademark jazz / soul / pop / folk sounds takes us on a tour of her song writing skills as well as the versatility of her voice, ably supported by her band, Dale Melton (keys), Jeffrey Blount (bass) and Jonathan Whitney (drums/percussion).
‘Peace of Mind‘ is a toe tapping barnstormer of a song that speaks about the search for peace of mind, something that everyone can find resonance with. Moreover, it is the lyric “All I want is piece of mind, I think about it all the time” that shows us how the unrelenting focus of striving for peace of mind is the very thing that puts it further and further out of reach. The opening track, ‘Thin Line‘ has a similar feel, with big brassy horns to match the big vocals, whilst ‘Take It From Me‘ pairs Lili’s vocals with a New Orleans tinged rootsy, jazz rhythm.
Bold, roots music is also to the fore on the title track, ‘Better Days‘, with bluesy soulful vocals that remind the listener of Joan Armatrading in the phrasing (the same can be said for ‘The Wrong Time‘), with perhaps a hint of Tracy Chapman too. The soul searching lyrics are a stand out here:
“Life is harder than living, it can turn your heart to stone, it can be unforgiving, strand you all alone… I know somewhere there are better days”
Lili uses her voice so well here that you can feel the depth of pain coming out, yet there is also a touch of hope there because better days are coming.
Throughout the album, there are hints of folk music, from the soulful cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Number One‘ to the final track, ‘Supposed To Be‘ which is the most pared back, acoustic sounding track. The optimism shown in ‘Better Days’ comes to the fore again here with the positivity that comes from knowing that “I am who I am supposed to be”.
Lili’s advice for aspiring musicians is to :
Study Music. Play music as often as you can, practice as much as possible. Play in front of a live audience – open mics, house concerts. Try and get a “guest set” at a friend’s gig where you get to play three songs. It will give you stage time and also help you develop a following. Learn how to handle a stage. Most importantly, have fun and love playing music.
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