JeeZ LaWeeZ may appear to be a musical group, but in fact, they are a self-professed spiritual path to enlightenment disguised as a hugely talented and outrageously silly trio of musicians—Amy Blackburn (violin, viola, mandolin, kazoo, vocals), Katie Gill (guitar, ukulele, kazoo, vocals), and Nancy Harvin (harmonica, bass, percussion, vocals). They write memorable tunes and rearrange your favorites from the ’60s through the ’80s in unimaginable ways. Originally intended to be recorded live in concert, the album was instead recorded live (mostly) in the Wall of Sound Studios after illness canceled the concert twice. Despite their best efforts, the album doesn’t quite do that—I’m not sure any recording could. You might as well try to bottle sunshine—but it does faithfully reproduce their imaginative rearrangements, off-kilter originals, stunning three-part harmonies, and spirited hijinks.
With a repertoire that stretches from J. S. Bach to James Brown, the ladies had a lot to choose from for the album. The covers they chose showcase their multifaceted talents. There’s an earnest take of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that features the choral loveliness of Gill’s soprano. Their audacious take on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” makes you ask, “How do they do that ?” I don’t know, and I’ve seen them do it several times, though on the album, I think they get a small assist from the board. For sheer foolishness, you’ve got their swinging, a cappella take of “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”—yeah, the Rice Krispies jingle. It’s a high point of three-part fun. Tom Petty’s “Yer So Bad” and the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” don’t quite capture the edge that their live performances give these tunes, but the rocking goofiness of “Wild Thing” comes through loud and clear.
Their well-crafted originals include Blackburn’s rocking summer radio hit “This Groove,” and her grown-up ballad “Time Enough.” In a country-western mood, Gill contributes the hysterically irreverent “Jesus Is Better Than a Boyfriend” (“He’ll do all the laundry, then he’ll wash away your sin”) and the sensitive longing of “Just Me and the Moon.” Nancy Harvin’s humorous “No Mo’ ” chronicles the impact that the singer’s unspeakable (and unspoken) act has on her social life, and her “Little White Lies,” her wise, wry take on Southern social niceties, has become something of an anthem for the group.
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