"Lilli Lewis has Sister Rosetta Tharpe's virtuoso commitment to her instrument and Odetta's vocal power,
creating a show that is a force of nature." Eric Cager, Cutting Edge CE
ABOUT LILLI LEWIS
“Most slept on black folk singer. I listen to her when I want to be high on my soul.”
Who Is Lilli Lewis? - Video ExcerptsAnyone who has attended a Lilli Lewis show will right away understand the second statement made by an anonymous youtuber, but more often than not, the question most often uttered when stumbling across Lewis for the first time tends to be “Why have I never heard of you before?”
Her answers tend to be as layered and multi-hued as the music she has created over her 15 year career as a singer/songwriter. It could be because Lewis is an African-American lesbian of size carving out space for herself in an industry that has been taking its sweet time when it comes to challenging its precepts about looks, sexuality and marketability for women musicians, particularly women of color for whom the terrain in folk world has been decidedly narrow.
It could also have something to do with Lewis’ tendency to reinvent herself again and again, composing and performing inside, outside and around every tradition that has inspired her including classical, folk, jazz, rock, gospel, blues and R&B. Her justification for this tendency is that folk music from the African American tradition has always been multi-dimensional and hard to pigeon-hole, stating “if Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Odetta had had a baby, and that baby had had a baby, and that baby had had another baby….well that baby would probably be me.”
Disregarding the genre/identity bending nature of her output, Lilli Lewis’ music is mesmerizing with the binding agent being her singular voice of rare grace and grit. Lewis says the music she makes is mostly driven by a desire to embolden listeners to reach inside and discover the “super-powers” embedded in their most vulnerable places. She agrees that can be a tough sell, acknowledging that folks tend to protect those tender spaces for good reason. But she persists with an eye on beauty, authenticity, and even an element of surprise.
Since taking up residency in New Orleans, Lilli’s scope has definitely broadened. She has integrated elements of the funk rock vibe that was born and bred in the Crescent City. She has also taken a seat among tradition holders, singing lead for Dirty Dozen Brass Band founding member Kirk Jospeh’s Backyard Groove, and running Louisiana’s oldest indie record label, Louisiana Red Hot Records with a catalog that has included Trombone Shorty, Cyril Neville, and Allen Toussaint protogé Roland Guerin. Humbled by the charge to help build something forward thinking and positive for New Orleans and Louisiana musicians, Lewis says her end game is to bring more music industry to the city is while helping artists realize their vision of success.
Lewis herself has two releases on Louisiana Red Hot Records, her 2016 single “O, Let Your Light Shine Bright” and the 2018 critically acclaimed solo piano album “The Henderson Sessions,” and also available on vinyl. For more information visit www.louisianaredhotrecords.com.
QUOTES & REVIEWS
"Most slept on black folk singer. I listen to her when I want to be high on my soul." - Youtube listener
“Impressive...heartfelt.” - Papa Mali
Makes you want to put your hands in the air, shout hallelujah and shake your booty for the rest of the night...enough energy to power a large city.
A riveting a cappella opening to Lilli Lewis’ ‘Coretta’s Song’ brings to mind a Negro spiritual, and pulls the listener in for a taut, acoustic beacon to the resilience of black women.
Lilli Lewis, a chanteuse, a pianist with one of the widest hearts and deftest touches in songwriting I have ever heard...uniquely poignant and heartfelt...