Lisa Markley
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Lisa Markley

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE | AFM

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE | AFM
Band Jazz Folk


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"CD REVIEW: Lisa Markley - "One Word""

CD REVIEW: Lisa Markley - "One Word"
By Gian Fiero - 04/14/2009 - 06:01 PM EDT
Artist: Lisa Markley
Album: One Word
Label: Soonasongs
Genre: Jazz
Sounds Like: Soonasongs
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: One Word, Song For Henry, New Jersey Sunset
Weakness: ?
CD Review:

Lisa Markley, a singer, songwriter, and graduate from the University of North Texas with a degree in music composition, sent me the type of project that was made for introspective, rainy days. Characterized by sparse, organic arrangements that can be ingested like a breath of fresh air, this CD is the perfect remedy for over-produced music.

Her lead, and title track, "One Word," conjures up memories of Roberta Flack’s "If Ever I Saw Your Face" in tone and temperament, but will also evoke musical memories of Sarah McLachlan with her emotive vocal phrasing. Other standout tracks include the burlesque, "Song For Henry," the jazzy, up-tempo, flute-driven "New Jersey Sunset," and the sexy, "Adagio."

It’s tough to pinpoint the “most commercial” song on this project because it’s not a commercial CD. I reviewed it because each song comprises the many good parts of a greater whole, and should be listened to by Jazz, Folk and Blues lovers on “repeat” for maximum affect.

Enjoyable; that’s the one word which best describes Lisa Markley’s latest project. - "Muse's Muse" Review by Gian Fiero - 04/14/2009

"Markley finally finds her voice: Dallas musician showcaseshard-to-define style"

When it comes to changing styles, Dallas musician Lisa Markley pleads guilty as charged: Over the last 20 years, she's changed colors like a chameleon inching across a LeRoy Neiman painting.

"I'm a late bloomer – it's taken me until age 43 to find myself musically," she says, "but now that I've found it, I'm ecstatic."

She's talking about her new solo album, The Sky Is Blue and Sometimes Cries, which she'll feature in concert Thursday night at Sons of Hermann Hall. It's an enchanting CD by an artist who deserves to be better known, but the music is just as hard to pinpoint as Ms. Markley, who began as a trombonist but evolved into a banjo player and guitarist for the Malvinas, the genre-blurring female trio.

Her solo disc is equally eclectic, mixing standards such as "Someone to Watch Over Me" with songs by North Texas writers including Paul Slavens and Little Jack Melody. Ms. Markley's own "Fork in the Road" may be the only jazz strut inspired by a Yogi Berra-ism ("When you come to a fork in the road, take it").

"I don't know what the jazzers are gonna think of this album," she says, sitting in her home-studio in Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District. "It's not really jazz – it's more than that, and less than that. I don't know what to call it."

Growing up in a small town north of Seattle, she simply called herself a trombonist. When she wasn't studying her dad's Benny Goodman eight-tracks, she was learning all the solos on her Chicago LPs, but her big-band phase went out the window when she got Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark.

"That album just blew my mind," she says. "By the time I hit University of North Texas, that was on my turntable for months. I drove my roommate crazy."

She switched her major from trombone to music composition, but constantly battled writer's block. She eventually earned her degree – but barely.

"I was probably a terrible student," she says. "We songwriters are sensitive folks, but at North Texas, nobody coddles you and says, 'You can do it.' They just say, 'Why haven't you cranked something out this week?' "

After UNT, she played in the Dallas folk bands Akoustik Nerve and Chattervox at night while teaching music during the day at St. Cecilia Catholic School (she now teaches privately in her home-studio). But her best-known gig is with the Malvinas, a trio that also features Quebec-based mandolinist Beth Cahill and New Orleans-based fiddler Gina Forsyth.

Their geography presents a challenge, but they manage to tour a few times each year and play places such as the Kerrville Folk Festival and New Orleans' Jazzfest.

"People are surprised we play together as well as we do because we're so different," she says. "Gina wins over the hard-core Americana folkies with her Cajun tunes, Beth has much more a pop sensibility, and I'm coming more from a jazz background."

Ms. Markley rerecorded one of her Malvinas tunes, "Eve Takes the Fall," for The Sky Is Blue and Sometimes Cries. In her version of the Garden of Eden tale, Eve was an innocent bystander who got framed.

"Having worked at a religious school as long as I did, it's important to reassert my view of Genesis," she says with a chuckle. "And in my take, it was all a great conspiracy."

The album also features tunes by Ms. Mitchell ("The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines"), Denton's Little Jack Melody (the title track) and two songs by ex-Ten Hands frontman Paul Slavens: "Fell Asleep Driving" and "Someone Exactly Like You."

Today, Mr. Slavens is best known for his Sunday music show on KERA-FM, 90.1 at Night. But Ms. Markley knew him when both were students at UNT in the mid-1980s – "back when he still had hair," she says. "I've always considered him like a big brother. He was always pushing me forward and encouraging me."

Brave Combo's Jeff Barnes also plays a major role on the CD, adding sax and clarinet solos that recall Branford Marsalis' work with Sting in the mid-'80s. Mr. Barnes, Mr. Slavens and guitarist Bruce Balmer will accompany Ms. Markley onstage tonight at Sons of Hermann Hall.

But the key instrument on The Sky Is Blue is Ms. Markley's lovely, understated voice, which fits jazz ballads and Latin-tinged folk tunes perfectly. (To hear song samples or to buy the CD, go to www

"I'm not formally trained as a vocalist – I come at it as a brass player, so at least I have good breath support," she says, laughing.

"But this is the first step of pushing myself as a vocalist and exploring the jazz thing as completely as I wanted to. It took 20 years of soul-searching to find myself musically, and I'm really happy to find it." - Thor Christenson / Dallas Morning New / January 24, 2007

"The Cornerstone: Music reviews and advice to the lovelorn--by Rocky Stone"

It has been a while since we've heard from Dallas' industrious diva, Lisa Markley. In between her work with the new folk trio, The Malvinas and teaching music in the Oak Cliff based Bishop Arts Music Studios, she has somehow found time to produce the intriguing and evocative new jazz album "The Sky Is Blue and Sometimes Cries". As with her debut effort "Goddess of Groove" and the more recent "Live at Gloria Dei Nights", Markley has surrounded herself with a cadre of seasoned and capable side players. Throaty clainet voices, rustic drum sounds, archaic piano tones are combined into an atmosphere of organic warmth. And soaring above it all is Lisa Markley. The material features covers such as the title track, the achingly beautifule song by Little Jack Melody, brilliantly interpreted by Paul Slavens on piano, and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" which climaxes in an exquisite and sensuously wistful tease on the last note. No one else can do it like Lisa. But the standout track is one of her originals. "Lullaby of the Wandering Moon" is a gorgeous latin glide through one of Markley's finest songs to date. The experience of listening to this track is rich and dense despite the sparseness of the arrangement which features superb guitar work from Bruce Balmer and light deft percussion. But what gives the thoughtful listener pause is not the skill and artistry with which Lisa has fashioned this work. It is the realization that this album only represents the beginning of her career as a jazz artist, and that there are undoubtedly unimaginable treasures yet to come. - Houston Music News / February 2007

"Lisa Markley, review, The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries--by Tom Geddie"

Simultaneously pensive and playful, Lisa Markley's mellow The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries is as seductive as a fine glass of wine sipped sometime after midnight in a quiet, favorite bar. A couple of new musicians join the group she worked with on 2004's excellent Live at Gloria Dei Nights in 2004; she even brings a few of the same songs into the studio.

This is an intimate CD influenced by the small jazz club performances of Sarah Vaughan, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, and Peggy Lee without losing any of Markley's originality.

She included new versions of four memorable songs – Paul Slavens' and Kelly Higgins' "Fell Asleep Driving" the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me," and her own "Eve Takes the Fall" and "Resonate" – from that live CD. Because of the quality of the writing and performances, this whole CD seems like it's filled with standards.

Among the seven other songs recorded for this CD, personal favorites include Slavens' seductive "Someone Exactly Like You" and the Charles Mingus/Joni Mitchell tune "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines." The CD is thankfully not immune to wordplay; Bruce Balmer's seaside " Elements" playfully conjures "someone to wash over me."

Markley is joined on various songs by Jeffrey Barnes on often playful reeds, Slavens on piano, and Drew Phelps on upright bass, all of whom played on the live CD. Other musicians on the sparse album are Balmer (guitar), Jason Bucklin (guitar), Martin McCall (percussion), and Pete Young (drums).

The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries will get wider distribution than Live at Gloria Dei Nights ever did; both collections are filled with fine wine and deserve to be heard by everybody who listens to good music. - Buddy Magazine / February 2007

""Sky is Blue" is one of Dick Crockett’s Top Ten picks"

One of Dick Crockett's Top Ten picks for August 2007
His review below:

SOMETIMES CRIES is a natural inclination from a new
artist. How and what do you sing on your new cd?
"Spring Can Hang You Up The Most," and Markley's
phrasing comes upright naturally.
And "Someone Exactly Like You," is a straight ahead
blues written and performed, J. Paul Slavens, piano
accompanist. "Elements" written by guitarist Bruce
Balmer reveals another talent of Lisa Markley. A
remarkable ability to interpret new songs, an adroit
rarity. There's great raw talent here. You would hope
that Austin City Limits would pick up on Lisa Markley.
She wrote and performed "Eve Takes The Fall" with such
casual enunciation. Then it struck me when listening
to listening to 'The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines"
that Lisa Markley's reflections are Joni Mitchell and
remembered her performances in a small cafe on
Woodward Ave in 1963 with her husband folk
guitarist/singer Chuck Mitchell. Back to Lisa Markley
in focus. She is definitely the next best of
guitarist/writer since Joni Mitchell, pop
expressionist, the early one.
Then the song that struck was "Lullaby Of The
Wandering Moon," an existential love in the moment as
it is...
PS: I'm awe struck and teary eyed.
Dick Crockett
"The Voice" 88.7fm
4623 T Street, Suite A
Sacramento, Ca 95819-4743
audio streaming - "Sky is Blue" is one of Dick Crockett’s Top Ten picks, "The Voice" 88.7fm Sacramento


One Word, Lisa Markley, 2009, Soona Songs Records
The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries, Lisa Markley, 2007, Soona Songs Records
Live at Gloria Dei Nights (2003, bootleg concert, out of print)
Markley & Balmer, Markley & Balmer 2008, Soona Songs Records
Love, Hope + Transportation, The Malvinas, 2004
i'm not like this, The Malvinas, 2002
Goddess of Groove, Lisa Markley, 2000, (available from



"Markley has more depth control and beauty to her voice in a live concert setting than most vocalists get in a studio. Driving that voice is a soul of wit and intelligence and a heart of gold." --Paul Slavens, KERA Dallas

Reared on big band and swing, Lisa Markley started her musical journey as a trombonist, finally laying it down (in favor of a more vocal journey) after graduating from University of North Texas. While at North Texas she majored composition, played trombone in the lab bands and sang in the Jazz Singers. She defies category in pursuit of the perfect song.

Though Lisa Markley's career as a songwriter blends folk and jazz influences, her recent projects have brought her home, focusing her finely tuned vocal talents on the jazz genre. Lisa's solo albums "The Sky is Blue and Sometimes Cries" as well as "One Word" feature standards along with compositions by North Texas songwriters whom she wants to share with new audiences, and a few jazz-based original songs.

These days Lisa performs locally with her trio (jazz-based original material, select songs by friends and the odd standard), and tours nationally with her partner in crime Bruce Balmer (aka “Markley & Balmer) doing their own twisted take on original songs and standards, (she also hits the road occasionally with the genre-busting folk-ish trio “The Malvinas”).