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Zoë Lewis


Country of origin:

England, now lives in U.S.

Type of music generally:

According to her website, she is a "band in a body!" who plays "jazz, jump jive, Latin grooves, swing, international folk, funk originals on anything from the piano to the spoons!"

Status:

Most recent release, Rotary Phone (2011)

See also:

Zoë Lewis' website

Wikipedia's entry on Zoë Lewis

Comparisons:

Comparisons range widely and include Susan Werner, Jill Sobule, The Be Good Tanyas, and Nellie McKay

Covers/own material:

She mostly performs her own original songs, though I have seen her do some lively jazz/swing standards in live performance too. (meth@smoe.org)

General comments:

The woman is an absolute RIOT, not to mention a genius.
     Zoë Lewis is wonderful. In my opinion she's better live than on CD, if only because then you can see for yourself just what an amazing musician she is; and if you think her lyrics are funny, well, nothing can prepare you for her stage banter.
     I think a dream double bill would be to see her with Susan Werner. I don't think anyone in the room would make it out alive. (meth@smoe.org)

Comments about live performance:

Here's a name to put on the radar, if it's not already: Zoë Lewis.
     woj and I saw her at the Falcon Ridge Preview Tour the other night, which we had originally gone to because Trina Hamlin is part of it (Eric Schwartz rounds out the bill). Trina was great as always, Eric Schwartz was unexpectedly enjoyable, but Zoë Lewis just blew me away.
     The most obvious point of reference would be Susan Werner's goofy and jazzy side, multiplied by a factor of six. Lewis is a diminutive multi-instrumentalist who looks like Patty Larkin and has a real vaudeville thing going. She plays killer jazz/ragtime piano, as well as guitar, harmonica, ukulele (or as she introduced it, "my guitar had a baby" :), and her web site says also tin whistle, though she didn't have one the other night. She also makes her own trumpet sounds, and her Louis Armstrong impression puts Susan's to shame.
     I'm definitely going to see her again. (meth@smoe.org)

Recommended first album:

Fishbone, Wishbone, Funnybone

Recordings:

  • Little Piece of Sky (1994)
  • Full of Faraway (1996)
  • Sheep (1998)
  • Fishbone, Wishbone, Funnybone (2001)
  • Small Is Tremendous (2004)
  • A Cure for the Hiccups (2008)
  • Rotary Phone (2011)

Sheep

Release info:

1998—Dog Called Dog Productions

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

On "Sheep" (the title track) and her signature song, "Pies for the Public" there are shouts, but since the audience is supposed to join in at those points during her shows, it makes sense. (Sort of like listening to Erin McKeown's "La Petit Mort" on Distillation in the car, and shouting "OH ESTELLE!!!" at the proper moments throughout. :) The other songs are much more low-key in that department. I'd say if you like the quirkiness of Fishbone, Wishbone, Funnybone, you'd probably like Sheep as well. (meth@smoe.org)

Fishbone, Wishbone, Funnybone

Release info:

2001—Dog Called Dog Productions

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

finally heard one of her albums and have totally fallen in love with Fishbone/Wishbone/Funnybone—haven't got the new one yet, but looking forward to it (jjhanson@att.net)

This album is full of adorable, perky songs. They're sure catchy and fun musically for pieces that could rest on their often hilarious lyrics. The arrangements match the story of each song and range from French, jazz, Spanish, folk to sea-shanty touches. Zoë Lewis is very rhythmical—her singing follows the beat and the funny phrases are timed for perfect punch and cuteness. The tight rhythms of the guitar (sometimes Ani-ish, but in a more supportive role) and the percussion are so toe-tappingly good.
     On first listen, the jazziness (reminding me of Mary Lydia Ryan but in a bouncy, non-dreamy, way) of the opening numbers didn't grab me, but as the album progressed, words kept on making it through the fog of my so-called-studying, and by track six I was laughing out loud and wiggling my feet. In this number, she hides from the rain in the British museum, and "the past raises small fingertips/ and the crowd breathes a sigh/ for we are surrounded by/ sarcophagi. [evil laughter]"
     Then there's 'Jacques Cousteau'—"I had his photo by my bed, I had a yearning like he did/ to observe the mating urges of jet-propelled Sierro (?) squid/ I want to be like Jacques Cousteau/ a sort of aquamarine Clouseau."
     It's all very fun, and not entirely silly, the humour often enhances serious subjects. (k_hester_k@yahoo.co.nz)


Further info:

Zoëe Lewis's musical, Snail Road was produced in 2011.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-04-18 22:56:03.
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