The title of her sixth album says it all, for L.A. based Indie Blues Artist Lawrence Lebo is truly an “Old School Girl” and proud of it. This new album also features her prowess as a songwriter as the seven new tracks delve into soul-blues territory that pay homage to her “Stax Records’” influences. Lebo partnered with Rich Wenzel at Ardent Audio Productions to mix and master the album for his familiarity of “Old School” ways of record making. Wenzel places Lebo in the center of a pulsing rhythm section spiced with classic Hammond B3 organ, sweet lead guitar, hot blues harp and rock-solid bass lines.
The sultry ‘You’ve Got A Secret’ opens the album with Lebo calling out the deceitful ways of a lover who’s doing her wrong, with Larry David and Tony Mandracchia trading delicious solos on organ and lead guitar as Lebo pours her heart out. The title track finds Lebo laying out her retro manifesto, over a sweet swing groove and walking bass. She namechecks her heroes Etta and B.B and throws shade on the “New School Girls,” who prefer an Uber ride over a 57 T-Bird. The album’s lone cover of the T Bone Walker standard, ‘Stormy Monday,’ is given the full knee-deep shag and Sunday church service treatment with thick B3 backup that spins up into a rollicking double time for a fabulous harmonica solo from David and more hot lead guitar before Lebo takes us home for the dramatic finale.
We head to the bayou for some Cajun jitterbug dancing on the Zydeco spiced ‘Stop Shouting Your Business,’ with Lebo channeling the Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, on the accordion fueled second line gumbo. The Memphis soul styled ‘Give Me A Try’ is straight out of the Soulsville catalog with a fatback beat, chicken picking lead and funky Fender bass from her longtime partner in crime Denny Croy. Lebo then lets it rip on the full throttle Texas double shuffle ‘Bad To The Core,’ with all of her sass and spunk front and center, declaring she is done “being good,” while Tony wails on his Stratocaster. The classic twelve bar ‘Happy Anniversary, Baby’ is a blues sonnet, with a lush string arrangement and emotive solos, lovingly delivered as a tribute to a soulmate who has shared all the good times and bad, with equal devotion.
Lawrence Lebo plays the game on her own terms, an artist who has earned her street cred “Old School Girl,” by working in the gritty clubs of Los Angeles, and by earning a degree with honors from UCLA, to become a respected American blues & roots musician.
Rick J Bowen
Daughter of a Sears & Roebuck shoe salesman, Lawrence grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, far away from the entertainment industry. She worked into the business the hard way, by singing in bands in every gritty little dive bar, all the while struggling as a single mother. While her recordings receive airplay internationally, raising a family kept Lawrence’s performance schedule mostly local. She is well known and loved in Los Angeles. The LA WEEKLY awarded her BEST BLUES SINGER in their annual BEST OF LA 2014 special addition and wrote “Lebo remains one of this country’s greatest living blues singers.”
In 1985 Lawrence was working in a duo act at a little bar on Venice Blvd in West Los Angeles. On her break she walked down the street to another bar to hear their band and met bassist Denny Croy (Lawrence Lebo, Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Moon Martin). “We had this up and down the street romance,” says Lawrence. A year later they were married and playing music together, with Lebo writing material and fronting the band! Over 30 years later they are still performing and recording together. That is so Old School!
Lawrence has always relied on the strength of her music. In a career that has lasted several decades Lawrence was a successful self-releasing artist long before any artist ever dared consider doing such a thing! In 1989, before everyone had a computer and access to the internet she released her debut EP on her label On The Air Records from the kitchen of her tiny rent-control apartment, using just a typewriter and her Rolodex. All of Lawrence’s body of work contains the element of Old School.
Lawrence is a consummate performer and entertainer who takes her audiences along on a magical journey. In their live concert review Music Connection wrote “Ms. Lebo took complete control of the stage. She was a comfortable performer who worked her audience well, often at times offering humorous as well as educational explanations for her choices. She had style, spunk and charisma! This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.”
Ms. Lebo has worked long and hard at developing her craft and expanding her education. In the 1980s, she had attended the vocal program at Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, California. With this educational background, a steady performance schedule and raising family, she returned to traditional academia in 2000, earning an Associate of Arts degree in music at Santa Monica College, and then transferring to UCLA to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005. She received two of UCLA’s highest honors, including a Regents Scholar and a Gold Shield Alumni Scholar, that covered her entire tuition. Lawrence proudly notes however, “The best part of my experience at UCLA was getting to study Duke Ellington under Professor and world-famous Jazz/Blues guitarist Kenny Burrell. It just doesn’t get any better than that!” She graduated from UCLA with Latin Honors and became the first in her family to graduate from higher education. Periodically she teaches a blues singing techniques workshop at world famous McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, as well as at other venues in conjunction with her concerts.