Kid Andersen – Spirits/Lisa “Little Baby” Andersen – Soul | Album Review

Kid Andersen – Spirits/Lisa “Little Baby” Andersen – Soul

Little Village Foundation LVF 1063

22 songs – 102 minutes

One of the driving forces in the blues world, Kid Andersen is often far busier behind the scenes as a producer/engineer at his acclaimed Greaseland Studios in California than as a key cog in Rick Estrin & the Nightcats’ guitarist and his equally talented vocalist wife Lisa take center stage on this stellar, two-album set.

Surrounded by an abundance of talent from the Nightcats/Little Village Foundation family, Kid takes the spotlight on the first disc, delivering blues as blue as it can get, before yielding to Lisa – affectionately known as Little Baby, for a platter that shows why an over-the-top achievement that He shares the spotlight on this two-disc set with his wife, Lisa Leuschner Andersen, who went from becoming a seven-year-old big-band singer and child model to successful stints on TV’s American Idol and Showtime at the Apollo and a two-CD run at Succession Records before marrying Kid and teaming with him to build the Greaseland franchise.

Based in suburban San Jose, the Andersens’ studio began with Kid using a radio station’s discarded tape machine to record himself. But in the past 15 years, it’s blossomed into a franchise that’s produced more than 150 albums, many of them award nominees and winners, with Little Baby becoming a “not-so-secret weapon” thanks the mellifluous sound of her voice on hundreds of their tracks.

The unbelievably deep roster here includes appearances from keyboard players Jim Pugh, Chris Burns, Lorenzo Farrell, Latimore, Lucky Peterson and others, guitarist Rome Yamilov and bassist Jerry Jemmott shares duties with five cohorts along with a percussion section that includes Derrick “D’Mar” Martin, June Core, Butch Cousins and six more folks too numerous to name.

Charlie Musselwhite, Nic Clark and Stevie Gurr contribute harmonica along with horn sections led by Mike Rinta that feature ten talents, including Sax Gordon Beadle. And vocals are enhanced by appearances from the Sons of the Soul Revivers, Vicki Randle, Rusty Zinn, Latimore, the late Wee Willie Walker, Finis Tasby, Little Charlie Baty, Les McCann, Ron Thompson, James Harman, Mike Ledbetter, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and far too many others than this space allows.

Featuring seven originals and two completely massaged covers, Kid’s deliberate, intense burner, “The Civilized Life” opens Spirits which finds him in the uncomfortable situation where former fame has escaped him and he finds himself unsuited for the jarring change-of-pace. The tempo quickens briefly before the syncopated “Scratch!,” a reggae-fused number about an unwanted houseguest, Satan. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” gets an outstanding 21st-century makeover with Lisa doubling Kid’s vocals and Andersen laying down single-note six-string lead before the two-four pleaser, “Hey, Mr. Reaper,” serves up a request that Death “don’t make your rounds so slow…because it’s time for me to go.”

The horns kick in for the first time with the uptempo, soulful “Give Me the Road,” which announces Kid’s got “the spirit in my and it’s gotta come out.” Then the title tune, “Spirits,” opens at a whisper before the funk kicks in and Kid wonders if its true that we’re looked over by guides from the other side. A searing blues, “I Ain’t Right” follows with Andersen admitting his “mind ain’t up to snuff – and if they new what was goin’ on they’d lock me up.” A fresh take on the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” gets a thoroughly soulful redo before the funky “Ship of Fools” – an original, not a cover – opens quietly and slowly builds in intensity as it describes troubled time to close out the set.

Little Baby’s set serves up emotion-packed messages, beginning with Mighty Mike Schermer’s “In My Mind’s Eye.” A barebones number that picks up speed throughout, it looks back at the past and gives hope for the future with Lisa delivering a little honey with each note. Co-written with Will Leuschner, the original “I Miss You” is a plaintive expression of love atop a Latin beat for someone who’s gone forever. It gives way to the late Donnie Woodruff’s ballad, “I Won’t Let That Happen to Me,” promises not to reveal to the world the pain Little Baby feels inside.

Kid’s country flavored “If You Could Only See” is delivered as an Andersen duet before Elvin Bishop’s familiar rocker, “Rock Bottom,” takes on a completely different feel thanks to Lisa’s uptempo delivery. The hits keep coming with a version of John Nemeth’s “Why Not Me” before Kid’s bluesy “Slipped Through My Fingers” finds Little Baby bemoaning the loss of her man sharing the mic with Latimore as the tune progresses. Stevie Wonder’s “You Met Your Match” is up next before the funky “Flying” serves up a warning to a lover who’s made Lisa look like a fool.

“You Took Me All the Way,” a sweet number Will penned for Lisa’s mom, precedes “This Time,” the promise from a wayward lady that she’ll be true before Wonder’s “Free” and Little Baby’s acoustic pleaser, “Family,” brings the action to an end.

Kid and Little Baby serve up something blue for everyone on this one. Whatever your tastes, it’s not to be missed.

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