She hasn't yet broken out commercially in a big way, but singer Lizz Wright has long seemed poised to follow in the platinum-selling, Grammy-festooned footsteps of Tracy Chapman, Norah Jones and other contemporary singers who infuse elements of blues and folk music with jazzy, smoky soul. Raised on church music in Georgia, Wright is well-versed in the freedom songs of Sweet Honey in the Rock, without whom none of the music here would exist; "I Remember, I Believe" is by that group's leader, the great Bernice Johnson Reagon, whose daughter Toshi Reagon (Wright's best friend) co-wrote "Hit the Ground."
In this short but satisfying two-song set at the NPR Music offices, the ever-evolving Wright channels the gospel of her past (as she does on last year's Fellowship) while remaining coolly understated. It helps, of course, that she's got a subtly crafty band with her: guitarist Robin Macatangay, bassist Nicholas D'Amato and drummer Brannen Temple, who MacGyvers some Tiny Desk-friendly percussion instruments out of an upturned wastebasket and a pizza box, among other detritus. The result is a sweet surprise: as spiritually uplifting as it is graceful, grounded and unmistakably cool.
- "Hit The Ground"
- "I Remember, I Believe"
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; photo by Abby Verbosky