When it comes to being viewed as a serious musical artist, few people have had the particular obstacles that Lisa Marie Presley has had to face. Fame was never the issue—her daddy’s shadow ensured she would spend her life in public scrutiny, and her own colorful past simply enhanced that aspect. Rather, the challenge has always been to rise above those secondary claims to fame and be seen simply as the artist she is, accepted on her own merits rather than being compared to her father’s legacy. To be taken seriously for her art.
If Storm and Grace doesn’t do that for her, I honestly don’t know what will.
Her third album, and her first in seven years, Storm and Grace makes a clean break from the pop/rock efforts of her last two recordings, venturing instead into Americana/roots territory. The influence of producer T-Bone Burnett can be immediately heard, but the vibey guitars, retro reverb and lo-fi-ish drums and bass form a musical cloak that seems to fit over Presley’s shoulders perfectly. Vocally, the emphasis is placed on Presley’s rich low register, creating a sound that is vaguely reminiscent of Burnett’s ex-spouse Sam Phillips without sounding copy-cattish.
But beyond the genre switching, what really makes this album is Lisa Marie Presley’s own songwriting. Her songs are honest and confessional, coming out of obvious places of pain, but lacking the unbridled angst of her previous efforts. There’s anger and hurt and regret, but overall, this record is not a place of venting; it’s a place of coming to terms. It’s the sound of an artist growing up. High points of the record include opening tracks “Over Me” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet;” the dark confessional “Un-Break” (“I got run over by my own parade”); and the pointed “So Long,” which is apparently Presley’s good-bye song to Scientology, her former religion. Balancing out these intense tunes are melancholy-sweet ballads like “Soften the Blows” and “How Do You Fly This Plane?”
Switching genres is frequently seen as an attempt to re-invent oneself; it’s not without risk, and many have failed at it. Allowing a producer with such a recognizable signature like T-Bone Burnett to take the helm might have been disastrous for some, but for Lisa Marie Presley, it’s quite possibly the best move she could have made. This sound fits her, possibly because it’s a natural part of her musical legacy. It’s not a perfect offering, but with Storm and Grace, Presley has created the most artistically legitimate album of her career, coming squarely into her own, and growing up as an artist and a person. Her previous albums might have sold mainly because of her name, but this record deserves to be purchased on its artistic value alone.
ALBUM RATING: Four stars (out of five)