Lawrence Lebo – Old School Girl | Album Review

Lawrence Lebo – Old School Girl

On The Air Records 9657

8 songs – 28 minutes

Don’t be fooled by her name, Lawrence Lebo is a female vocalist with old-school sensibilities, as she states directly in the title of this CD.

A lady who possesses a distinctive mezzo soprano voice, she’s the daughter of a Sears & Roebuck shoe salesman who grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, where she’s still based. She studied at Grove School Of Music, Santa Monica College and UCLA, where she graduated with honors and took classes taught by guitar master Kenny Burrell. Since making her recording debut on a self-produced EP in 1989, entitled Don’t Call Her Larry, she’s carved a name for herself in jazz, pop and blues circles.

While Lebo delivers plenty of the stylings fans have come to know her for, Old School Girl ventures far more deeply into blues drenched R&B as she pays tribute to one of her biggest influences: the classic sounds that emanated from the Stax studios in Memphis in the ‘60s.

Captured at NewZone Studio in West Los Angeles by Wayne Peet and Ardent Audio in Torrence by Rich Wenzel and, like her previous releases, produced on her own On The Air imprint, this one includes seven Lawrence originals, all of which are thoroughly modern while maintaining a strong foothold in the past, and one cover.

Jazz man Tony Mandracchia, whose work has been featured in the movie soundtracks of Tarzan and Serenity, handles guitar and banjo duties with Denny Croy (Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes and Brian Setzer Orchestra) on bass, Steve Mugalian (Rod Piazza and James Harman) and Ed Eblen on drums, Larry David (Keb’ Mo’ and Smokey Robinson) on keyboards and harmonica, and Carl Byron and accordion. Sasha Smith and Phil Parlapiano share Hammond B-3 organ responsibilities on three of the cuts.

A tasty guitar line opens the slow blues burner “You’ve Got A Secret” in which Lawrence finds herself in tears as she accuses her man of telling lies and wonders what the true might be. Her delivery is steady and slightly behind the beat as it accompanies the instrumentation to drive the song forward. The tune has a timeless feel and features extended solos from David on keys and Mandracchia on six-string.

The tempo picks up slightly for the title tune, “Old School Girl,” which proceeds with a consistent feel and more fine fretwork. In it, she runs down all of the things from the past, like being kissed on the neck, that she still enjoys today. This one would have made a perfect fit in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s.

Lebo tackles the T-Bone Walker warhorse “Stormy Monday” next, delivering the opening verses at a snail’s pace with succulent vocal accents before the pace picks up dramatically with jazz-influenced harp and guitar solos midway. Byron’s accordion drives the cautionary original “Stop Shouting Your Business” next. It comes across with a zydeco feel and the warning that you’ll only make yourself out to be a fool if you do. Listed with a warning for explicit language, it’s actually limited to one four-letter word delivered on a single occasion.

The band gets funky as Lawrence urges a prospective lover to “Give Me A Try,” describing her attributes in the process, before the uptempo shuffle “Bad To The Core” comes across with a driving blues beat. Lebo notes that she used to be good, but not any more, that her man’s got a dark side. It’s only natural that she does, too. The sweet love ballad, “Happy Anniversary, Baby,” follows before a cleaned-up version of “Stop Shouting Your Business” brings the set to a close.

Available from Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, this one’s short and sweet, but will please anyone who enjoy music that’s delivered with a classic upscale jazz-blues feel.

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