Mississippi native Lisa Mills spent ten years playing guitar and singing in the coastal areas of the south before releasing her debut recording in 2000. In 2004 she appeared as a vocalist on The Big Town Playboys 2004 album “Roll The Dice” featuring Jeff Beck and Robert Plant. She also spent time touring the U.S. and abroad as a Janis Joplin replacement with “Big Brother & The Holding Co.”
In 2011 Mills released “Tempered in Fire”, and on songs like Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”, her southern blue-eyed soul and raspy vocals caused her to be compared to Bonnie Raitt. On her last album 2014’s “I’m Changing” Mills successfully re-worked some of her older material.
For this new album Mills traveled to four of the South’s most famous studios to record her versions of fourteen specially selected covers. She recorded four songs at Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios; five at Memphis’ Royal Studios and one at the Sun Studio, and four more at The Malaco Studios in Jackson Mississippi. The album produced by Fred Mollin is significant as Mills records her versions in the cities where the songs originated. The Triangle refers to the path traveled.
The Muscle Shoals session included a band featuring the great Clayton Ivey on keyboards. Lead electric guitar was played by John Willis; while producer Mollin sat in on rhythm and acoustic guitar. The rhythm section was Bob Wray, bass; and Justin Holder, drums and percussion. The opening track “Greenwood, Mississippi” was originally recorded by Little Richard in 1970. Also recorded at the Fame Studio was “Tell Mama” first recorded by Etta James in 1967; “Slip Away” recorded by Clarence Carter in 1968, and “I’d Rather Go Blind” written by Carter and released by James as the B-side to “Tell Mama”. The latter two songs from this session are among my favorites as Ivey’s organ and Mills’ vocals are outstanding.
“Just Walking in The Rain” was a song originally recorded by Johnny Ray in 1956, when he was with the Ray Conniff Orchestra, and the first song recorded by Mills at Sun upon arriving in Memphis. Then Mollin took Mills to Boo Mitchell’s Royal Studio to record. The band there included the legendary Hammond B-3 player Reverend Charles Hodges; keyboardist Lester Snell; lead guitarist Michael Toles; Mollin on rhythm guitar; bassist Leroy Hodges, and Steve Potts on drums and percussion. Recorded by Mills at the Royal Studio session is another favorite, the fabulous “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”, originally written and recorded by Little Milton on Stax Records in 1972; Bobby Womack’s “I’m in Love” recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1968; “Same Time, Same Place” written by David Porter and Isaac Hayes and recorded by Stax recording artist Mable John in 1967; David Porter’s “A Place Nobody Can Find” recorded on Stax by Sam & Dave in 1965; and “That’s How Strong My Love Is” recorded by Otis Redding in 1969.
In Jackson, at the Malaco Studios, Mills recorded with keyboardist, Sam Brady; guitarist Brennan White; bassist Mike Thorn; and drummer George Lawrence; while Mollen again sat in on rhythm guitar. Covers recorded include Denise LaSalle’s “Somebody Else is Steppin’ In” originally recorded by Z. Z. Hill in 1982; “I’ll Always Love You” recorded by The Beat Daddys in 1990; Charles Johnson’s “Travel On” recorded by The Jackson Southernaires in 1982; and one more favorite Mills version of “Members Only” originally recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1987.
These versions were recorded “live” off the floor in their respective studios. Throughout the album we get to hear the horn section of Jim Hoke, sax and arrangements; and Steve Herman, trumpet. Mills’ performances are remarkable as she is still primarily an unheralded talent; but not for long. Kudos go out to both Mills and Mollen.