The year 2016 was one of large-scale and unexpected change for Tampa Bay area blues and soul vocalist Lauren Mitchell. During a tumultuous time in both her personal and professional life, she was given the opportunity to rise from the challenges she was facing and make the album of her career with producer Tony Braunagel. Mitchell took the leap of faith because she is a true student of the blues, a music that's all about finding a way to transform difficult experiences into something cathartic. The timing was perfect. She had an album to record.
That album, "Desire," is her most fully realized musical statement to date. Through a bold mix of her own original material, songs she hand-picked from the repertoires of her friends, and select covers of tunes first performed by Etta James, Bettye Lavette, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Betty Davis, Mitchell tells a blues story that's been a lifetime in the making. It's a stylistically varied set of 13 songs expertly recorded by drummer and Grammy-winning producer Tony Braunagel, whose work with Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Robert Cray have made him one of today's most in-demand blues industry professionals.
Recorded during a ten-day trip to Los Angeles, Braunagel brought out the best in Mitchell, highlighting every nuance in her powerful vocals and helping her craft an emotionally resonant album that's destined to go down as one of the year's highlights. Besides Braunagel, the band features guitarists Johnny Lee Schell and Josh Sklair, keyboardist Jim Pugh, bassist Reggie McBride, sax player Joe Sublett, trumpet player Darrell Leonard, and percussionist Lenny Castro. "The blues is a song of victory," Mitchell says. "It's a way to say, 'I'm over it,' and now I'm turning it into this beautiful thing that can help someone else heal. That's what this record is for me."
Featuring Annie Mack
"Blues is and always will be my foundation. I'm inspired by the rawness and realness of blues," says Annie. "Because I'm secure in my foundation, it allows me to branch out and express myself using others styles of music. When I write songs and start with the bare idea or "skeleton" I think about the mood of the piece. What story do I want to tell? Would a Gospel sound do it or maybe an outlaw country style? I try to "hear" the "vision", she pauses and thinks. "I try to hear the heart of the song."
Annie Mack has become passionate about "the heart of the song". Her new recordings of her originals is a work of dedication and soul. Annie's songwriting continues to evolve, unfolding thoughts and perspectives about humanity and human nature.
"I'm going in a different direction because the music spoke to me of a pop influence," she admits candidly. "I've been listening to Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Alabama Shakes, and Gary Clark Jr; all remarkable storytellers. I'm studying the way stories translate into songs."
Annie's songwriting is deep. Her new tune, "Closer", talks about owning her own life and the realization that growing adds richness to living. "Love" centers around the theme of the self-sabotage that happens when a friend manifests love, peace and joy but then rejects those very things. "Just Do Right" is the story of a charming drunk who, after begging for second chances, and receiving them, just can't do anything right.
Annie's Title Track, "Tell It Like It Is", about a recovering addict who finds power and stability in a very humble place: having a home, family, drinking coffee before reporting to work at a menial job. Success is found in the simplicity of life.
Annie's new songs speaks to her most amiable and admirable musical trait: she refuses to box herself into a genre. Her new tunes amplify the fact that she is a gifted songwriter, weaving themes of lack and appreciation, poverty and the precious gift of motherhood and, perhaps most importantly, the belief in a power that sees, raises and saves those who are lost and downtrodden. Her music talks about hope and the power of belief.
"I want others to not only jam out and enjoy the music but I want them to relate and have an experience as well.”