Michele Solberg, Suzanna Choffel, Lisa Richards, and Greezy Wheels
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Feb. 23, 2007
The 10 songs Michele Solberg chose for Christopher House Songs, a disc benefiting Hospice Austin, are tender mercies written by Townes Van Zandt, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, and Peter Gabriel, among others. Solberg includes her own "Photograph," as well as a poignant rendering of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to the weighty mix. What makes the collection so vulnerable isn't only Solberg's lovely voice but the nearness of death emboldened by the power of music. Austin-born Suzanna Choffel calls her slippery style "urban folk," and that's not a bad summation of the well-crafted compositions on her debut CD, Shudders & Rings. It's also worth noting that Choffel is schooled in music and that her ease in performing and writing comes from early exposure through the Grammy in the Schools program, not to mention playing in kid bands when she was young. It sounds cliché to say "watch this one," but don't say you weren't warned. Coincidentally, Aussie-turned-Austinite Lisa Richards often double-bills with Choffel. Richards wrote 10 of the dozen songs on her local debut CD, Mad Mad Love, a charming grab bag of folky pop that turns on a dime to bluesy rock enhanced by the tough sweetness of her voice. Technically, Greezy Wheels doesn't belong in "Girlie Action." The venerable Austin act is in its fourth decade of making quirky, percussive rock that's deeply informed by jazz, country, blues, reggae, and pop. Yet there's no denying Greezy Wheels' feminine dynamic in singer Lissa Hattersley and her sister-in-law, fiddler extraordinaire Sweet Mary Hattersley. Between them (and bandleader Cleve Hattersley), new CD String Theory (Mahatma Records) picks up where Dan Hick & the Hot Licks left off but ditches novelty edge in favor of sly Texas ambience.