It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love female blues singers. I even wrote a book about them! So, discovering Lisa Mills’ Tempered in Fire was like discovering buried treasure for me.
Mills has a real blues voice. She has been described as “a full-throated female Otis Redding,” and I can see that. To me, she has the passion and emotion of Etta James or Bonnie Raitt, with a slightly ragged voice perfect for the blues. At times, her voice reminds me of Bonnie Tyler or Sheryl Crow.
The material on this CD is a perfect match for Mills. I was immediately thrilled by her version of one of my all-time favorite songs, “Keep on Smiling,” made famous by Wet Willie. Mills does an excellent job on a tune that I feel sure always makes anyone who hears it feel better.
She also covers another Wet Willie classic, “Countryside of Life,” a great blues tune that sounds completely authentic in Mills’ version. There is one other cover here, Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine,” which is sung expressively and with soul.
The other songs on the CD were new to me, but are consistently enjoyable and done with real feeling. My favorite of the new songs is probably “Blue Guitars of Texas,” one of the songs that reminds me most of a young Raitt. It is a tribute not only to Texas blues, but country blues from Tennessee as well, with a nod to Georgia, New Orleans, Wyoming, Denver and elsewhere. It’s a really stunning slow country blues.
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” picks up the pace and offers us listeners a rocking anti-love song. “Tempered in Fire” then brings us back to a contemplative place in which you can hear the tears as well as the strength in Mills’ voice, before “Why Do I Love You?” picks it up again and shows us that tough woman who embodies the best of the female blues singers.
“My Happy Song” is another slow number which really showcases Mills’ ability to sell the blues and make the singer feel the sorrow of the lyrics.
The CD closes with “Someone Very Close,” a classic story of betrayal by a close friend who tries to break up the singer’s romance. It’s a strong song and this is the one that reminded me of Bonnie Tyler with the raw but barely contained power of the vocal.
Lisa Mills is a true new blues treasure and I hope she is going to get much more attention than she has so far. She is amazing, and I give this CD my highest recommendation.