When I moved to Winnetka Heights in early 2002, I came for lots of reasons. My prairie bungalow. My history-loving neighbors. A diverse environment for my daughter. Proximity to the Bishop Arts District. What didn’t make my list? A happenin’ music scene.
Even as a girl who cut her teeth on Oak Cliff legends Stevie Ray Vaughn and T-Bone Walker (a.k.a. Oak Cliff T-Bone), who relishes rise-to-fame stories like Edie Brickell and Erykah Badu, I was realistic about the Cliff’s current lack of live-music venues. With such low expectations, then, I was delighted when I began bumping into local musicians around the neighborhood. Shortly after the Nodding Dog opened, it began to feature live music by Oak Cliff musicians — and I started spending Saturday nights cozied up with a pajama-clad toddler over vanilla steamers. One night, the performer — Oak Cliff singer-songwriter Lisa Markley — took my breath away.
Some CliffDwellers may know Lisa as a longtime music teacher and the founder of Bishop Arts Music, a studio for piano, guitar and ukulele instruction. If your child attended St. Cecilia’s anytime between 1993 and 2004, chances are Lisa taught them a music class or two. When I first encountered Lisa, she was performing solo, delivering her signature mix of old folk and jazz songs plus her own original music.
My kid and I were entranced from the first note, and our love of Lisa’s music continues to this day. Over the last several years, we’ve gone to see her perform whenever and wherever we can — and we’ve been blown away every time. We’ve seen her perform solo around Oak Cliff and at Deep Ellum’s AllGood Café. We’ve gone across the Trinity to watch Lisa play house concerts as the local third of critically-acclaimed female folk trio the Malvinas. We’ve picked up her early, home-grown CDs and sung along in the car to several of her — and their — original songs. We also got to know her well over the course of six-months of ill-fated ukulele lessons for my music-loving kiddo.
As much fun as it has been feeling like a musical insider as we attended Lisa’s performances at various small venues around town, the cat is finally out of the bag. Turns out, we’re far from Lisa’s only fans here in the
Cliff — and, now, our very own neighborhood record label, Soona Songs [soonasongs.com], is releasing Lisa’s first jazz album, a compendium of tunes she describes as “standards, originals and songs that should be standards.”
The album, The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries, comprises four of Lisa’s original jazz-based tunes, including one of my family’s favorites, “Eve Takes the Fall,” a jazzy retelling of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve: “Mind overflowing — soon shares her fate. Really should’ve known better — funny how knowledge comes too late.”
Jazz lovers will appreciate her fresh take on classics like Wolf & Landesman’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and Gershwin & Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” And, for those of you who follow the North Texas music scene, the release features appearances by Grammy® winner Jeffrey Barnes of Brave Combo fame; KERA’s J. Paul Slavens, known locally as the lead singer and keyboard player for former Dallas rock-jazz-punk art band Ten Hands; and Little Jack Melody of eclectic jazz combo Little Jack Melody and the Young Turks.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Lisa’s voice is the stuff of stardom. She packs more emotion into a single phrase than many musicians pack into an entire album. The power of her vocals, not to mention the artistry of her lyrics and phrasing, make the album a joy for lovers of jazz and singer-songwriters alike. Supported by musicians like Barnes, who plays clarinet and sax, and singer-songwriter Bruce Balmer, who penned one of the album’s songs, “Elements,” Lisa’s artistry shines on every track.
By the time this column goes to print, Lisa and her
fellow musicians will have debuted the record at the renowned Sons of Hermann Hall ballroom — and you’ll definitely want check out an album that’s already generating local buzz. Visit cliffdwellermagazine.com to listen to Lisa’s take on a Slavens original, “Someone Exactly Like You.” The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries, a Soona Songs release, will be sold at soonasongs.com/store, and will also be available through iTunes, Rhapsody, MusicNet, Napster and Sony Connect. And if your kid loves music, e-mail Lisa about music instruction at firstname.lastname@example.org.