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Music Review: Zoë Lewis – Rotary Phone

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Zoë Lewis is a family friend, and I have seen her perform a few times. So when I received her new album, Rotary Phone, for review, I was very excited. She is an exciting new artist who takes fun lyrics and mixes them with jazzy beats that makes you want to listen to every word and smile.

Rotary Phone is Lewis’ seventh album. I have heard many of her prior recordings, but this is the first one I am reviewing. This album is a mix of jazz, swing, folk and I even heard a little reggae in one of her songs.

The first song on the album, “Vagabond,” sets the tone with its Dixieland jazz intro. I almost felt as if I was watching a Woody Allen movie when I was listening to this song about Lewis’ search for her place in the world.

The song, “Rotary Phone,” which is also the album’s title, is an upbeat song with lots of harmonies sung by Kate and Julie Wolf. Their voices really compliment Lewis’ angelic voice. Here, Lewis longs for simpler, slower times and reminisces about growing up in her childhood home.

When she sings, it has a calming effect. I know her personally and she has a wonderful caring personality, which comes through on all of her songs on this album.

The next several songs continue her journey. The beginning of “Barbizon” reminds me of a cool Parisian night when my husband and I sat in the Left Bank sipping our wine. It opens with an accordion player. And, if you close your eyes, you will feel like you are in Paris.

“Breakfast Blues” is one of the funniest songs on the album. It’s a real bluesy song that has a New Orleans style to it. If you are a breakfast person, you will definitely find this song a delight. She sings, “hard eggs every morning, cheese omelet you go.” The clarinet really makes the song worth listening to. Mark Chenevert, clarinet player, does an amazing job adding to the rhythm of the song as the puns continue to humorous effect.

“Beja Flor” starts off with a cool jazz beat. It’s one of those songs that you can see dancing the tango to.  In the song, “Bicycle,” you can close your eyes and almost see Lewis riding her bicycle around town in the summer. During the song, she rings her bell and greets her neighbors to tell them to get out of her way.

After running through many musical styles and many journeys, the album concludes with Lewis explaining how love and life are both wild and precious and how we all need to slow down and appreciate what we have.

What makes Lewis special is that she can perform with a multitude of band members or she can play alone. Both are upbeat and fun. When she is alone, she plays the piano, guitar, harmonica, ukulele, accordion and even the human trumpet. She is fun to watch. In between songs; she tells stories in a way that makes you feel like a kid again.

Although I personally know Lewis, if you like jazz, folk and swing and love having a good time, you will really enjoy Rotary Phone. And, try not to miss her in concert. She really is an act worth seeing.

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