Lovetta Pippen: Picture (self-released, 2021)

October 16, 2021 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Lovetta Pippen: Picture

Lovetta Pippen sang with His Name Is Alive for several years during the ’90s and 2000s, first appearing as part of a gospel choir featured on Stars on ESP, and singing lead on albums as recent as 2006’s Detrola. The first of two HNIA albums sung entirely by her, 2001’s Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth, was a diversion into minimalist, melancholy R&B which probably alienated most of the group’s old fans but was the album that got me into the group, and considering the trajectory of alternative R&B since then, it’s fair to say the album was ahead of its time, and would probably have more of a following now if it was released maybe half a decade later and was the debut album by an unknown band. Anyway, Lovetta has very occasionally popped up at concerts or singing backup vocals on records by Michigan folk troubadour Ethan Daniel Davidson, but her voice hasn’t been heard as a lead performer in far too long. She told me she was working on a solo album when I met her ages ago, and at one point she had a MySpace page set up to post her music, but now, at long last, we finally have a new single from her, popping up out of nowhere on HNIA’s Bandcamp, just like the new ESP Summer releases from last year. “Picture” is a gorgeous soul-jazz tune that leisurely unfolds with brush drums, piano, and bass. Lovetta, whose voice sounds richer and more expressive than ever, sings defiant, steadfast lyrics: “Don’t tell me how to paint my picture, don’t tell me how to sing my blues.” She doesn’t sound bitter, but it’s obvious that it hasn’t been easy for her to get where she is now, and no one recognizes what she’s been through or who she really is. The single also includes a remix by Warren Defever, who retitles the song “They Don’t Know”, which is appropriate as it barely resembles the original, only taking a few traces of the vocals and sprinkling them among shades of keyboards and filtered static, along with some antsy beats which barely touch the ground and don’t seem like they want to stick around too long. Whereas “Picture” is direct and forthright, “They Don’t Know” is detached and lingering, but they’re both different ways of expressing the same message. Just stunning.

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