Thea Hopkins has one of those voices you can get lost in. Whether she is singing one of her original ballads, performing a cover by Marianne Faithfull, or turning on her torch and mysterious side, she beguiles, charms, and sings the heck out of every tune.
Lilac Sky is her third recording. It's an EP of six songs: four original tunes and 2 covers. It is a departure from her previous work in that it moves away from the folk-oriented ballad into the realm of rootsy Americana and alternative country.
There are some very fine musicians at work here including Lyle Lovett's pianist Tim Ray and the Swinging Steaks' bassist, Paul Kochanski. But it is Thea we have come to hear, and Thea who captivates us with that inimitable voice.
The EP opens with Might've Stayed in Memphis Too Long, which dips into the territory of country rock. Peter Parcek provides some tasty licks on electric guitar, and singer Susan Cattaneo is sublime on harmony vocals. Get your country on and dig into this upbeat tune.
The title track, Lilac Sky, is a genre bending rock song with Chris Smither/Peter Wolf drummer, Mike Piehl, cranking out the beat alongside Parcek's guitar leading the rhythm. Thea's voice rings out on the chorus: "angels have wings to fly/and baby so do I." And we are off and running with a tune that will get you up on your feet.
Linda and Teddy Thompson's Do Your Best for Rock and Roll get the Thea Hopkins touch in a country ballad both sweet and poignant, tracking a singer whom has all but hit bottom in a life lived out in bars on the road. Tim Ray sprinkles just the right amount of blues accompaniment on this standout tune.
The closing song is an original called Watcha Gonna Do. It addresses the loss of the town's major employer, and the jobs that disappeared along with it. Andy Hollinger accompanies Thea on a superbly played mandola .
Lilac Sky is a wonderful addition to the Thea Hopkins discography. It adds a little bit of country, a little bit of rock, and a whole lot of Americana to her growing catalog of songs. But what separates Thea from the pack of independent music artists performing on the circuit today is her voice and her ability to connect with a lyric, whether it is her own or a cover. She wraps that dusky, expressive voice around the words of any tune she sings, and takes the listener directly inside its emotional center. Lilac Sky, with only six songs to its name, leaves us begging for more. Good singers can cover any tune; only great ones make them memorable. Thea Hopkins is one of the greats.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
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