Vocal stylist Elisabeth Lohninger’s latest album, Eleven Promises, due out in September, takes the listener on a sensuous journey through emotional passion lost and emotional passion found. Working on a set of 11 original compositions written by the singer either alone or in collaboration with her husband, pianist Walter Fischbacher, and one additional piece, a totally original look at Antonio Jobim’s classic “The Girl from Ipanema,” she hits song after song out of the park. Her vocals are both carefully layered and intensely felt—art in the service of emotion.
She is accompanied by a tight ensemble featuring Fischbacher on keys, Goran Vujic on bass, Ulf Stricker on drums, along with guitarists Ben Butler on two tracks and Pete McCann on two.
Highlights include “Birthday Girl,” a sensuous depiction of the fragility of dreams of love in a world where “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” It is a haunting, wistful melody evoking likely disappointment.
The alliterative “Mellow Moon Moaning” stresses the emotional need to seek love in spite of the fear that its promised paradise may not be lasting. Fischbacker adds some elegant piano solo work, curls of music leading to a climactic moment of wordless vocal ecstasy from Lohninger, perhaps the album’s absolute peak moment. Gary Shreiner guests on the chromatic harmonica on this track.
Lohninger shows another side when she offers up some social criticism in “Merry Go Round,” which takes the idyllic image from childhood and transforms it into a metaphor for useless repetition; human beings go round and round, round and round trying to deal with the ills of society, but nothing ever really changes. The repetition of the phrase mirrors the repetition of the merry go round.
Repetition is a device she uses in the album’s title song as well, except there it is used to reinforce the importance of the promises we make to each other. Circularity and repetition seem to be tropes that stick with the singer—there is even a song called “Circles.” The disc ends on an upbeat note with “Ya Mi Corazon,” a tune, we are told, based on “Cuenta con los Santos” by Tirso Duarte.
Elisabeth Lohninger is a fine singer and her original songs provide her with ample opportunity to show what she can do.