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Lisa Biales: HOME

"One of the finest releases of 2017" 

Four Stars! - DownBeat Magazine


Inspired by a found recording of a song that her mother had written in 1947, Lisa goes back to her roots on The Beat of My Heart.  

I had a wonderful time working with the finest musicians on the planet. There were times before heading out to LA that I felt a little nervous. I just thought, all you have to do is show up and sing, you've been doing this your entire life. Just show up and sing.  After all, music is the universal language and we were able to communicate beautifully. 

(back row L-R) Paul Brown, Chuck Berghofer, Johnny Lee Schell (middle row L-R) Lisa Biales,                   Jim Pugh, (front) Tony Braunagel.


I traveled to Studio City, LA to work with someone I have admired for years, Grammy Award winning producer and drummer Tony Braunagel to record my new album The Beat of My HeartTony is a member of the Robert Cray Band, Taj Mahal, and the Phantom Blues Band. He has worked with Bette Midler, Eric Burdon, Ricky Lee Jones and Bonnie Raitt. Tony has played on many film scores and television shows as well as numerous albums as a musician, composer and producer. In addition to playing drums, Tony also plays bass, sings, and is a Blues Music Award winner.  In 2014, he was nominated for Blues Music Award in the 'Best Instrumentalist – Drums' category.  He got my vote!  Tony's drumming is featured on this record, he grooves it, vibes it , and makes it all tone cool. If you're a drummer you're gonna love it!

I grew up in a musical family and learned singing from my mother. In 2015, I found a 78 record that was recorded back in 1947. It had one song on it, Crying Over You written by Alberta Roberts, my mom. Hearing my mother’s voice after all these years brought a chill to the bone. I realized that I had to put her song on this project. You’ll get to hear my mother's voice too, at 24 years of age, sing the first verse of her song and then I take over and finish what she started. It was a surrealistic experience.

Recorded and engineered by Johnny Lee Schell at Ultratone Studio in Studio City, California. Johnny Lee is a multiple Grammy Award winner for his Recording Engineer work on Loudon Wainwright III's 2009 album, and for his guitar playing with Lucinda Williams, B.B. King, and Delbert McClinton. He currently works with Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band. His inclusion on albums such as Bonnie Raitt's Green Light (1982) and Nick of Time (1989) has lent him his bearing in American pop music culture. I love Johnny's harmony singing on  the song I Should Have Known Better written by Carrie Newcomer.

Paul Brown brought his 1957 Gibson guitar to the studio and wowed us all with his amazing playing. Paul's skill as a producer has helped drive the popularity of smooth jazz for quite some time now. Brown's work with George Benson, Boney James, Patti Austin and the late Luther Vandross, among others, has earned him two Grammys and dozens of number-one hits. Way to go Paul!

Chuck Berghofer played upright bass and told us great stories about working with Seth MacFarlane and Nancy Sinatra. He wrote the famous bass line to These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.  He also worked on television with Glen Campbell recorded with Frank Sinatra (omg, could not stop thinking of my mom cause he played on her song Crying Over You), and Chuck played with Barbara Streisand, in which they did a recording of Funny Lady.  His film work extends to 400 appearances leading to his being awarded in the mid-1980s the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Award as the most valuable bass player for four consecutive years. In that decade he recorded with Mel Torme' and later recorded again with Sinatra on Duets.  Just a few of the films he worked on include Rocky I & II, On Golden Pond, Matrix, Majestic, Clint Eastwood’s Bird and True Crime. He also worked on such television shows as Barney Miller on which he played the opening bass line, Charlie's Angels, The Carol Burnett Show, The Simpsons, and Star Trek Enterprise.  All of my favorites. 

 Jim Pugh is a master keyboard player, his work on the Hammond organ, Steinway baby grand, and Wurlitzer electric piano add a rich dimension to this record.  Jim has been a member of the Robert Cray Band since 1989. In a varied career that includes performing on Grammy winning, platinum and gold CDs, Jim has recorded with numerous artists including Etta James, Van Morrison and BB King. He has also performed widely on national TV and produced over a dozen CDs for Robert Cray, Tower of Power and The Gospel Hummingbirds. In addition to having several movie and TV soundtrack credits to his name, Jim's songs have been performed by various artists including Robert Cray and Tower of Power. Jim wrote out all the music charts for the songs before he even showed up to the studio. 

Johnny Lee Schell played so many different guitars (Music Man Baritone guitar, TV Jones electric, a custom made Cidfiddle, Fender Telecaster) it was a guitar players dream to see what he was gonna bring to the session. Johnny Lee is a multiple Grammy winner for his Recording Engineer work on Loudon Wainwright III's 2009 album, and for his guitar playing with Lucinda Williams, B.B. King, and Delbert McClinton. He currently works with Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band. His inclusion on albums such as Bonnie Raitt's Green Light (1982) and Nick of Time (1989) has lent him his bearing in American pop music culture. 



Larry Taylor and Larry Fulcher

Larry Taylor of Canned Heat played the coolest upright bass. Before joining canned heat he was a session bassist for The Monkeys, Tom Waits, Harvey Mandell, John Mayall and Jerry Lee Lewis.  Say what? Good think I didn't know about this before the session or I would have been totally star struck.

Larry Fulcher is a 2013 inductee of the Blues Hall of Fame as Master Bassist. Larry has recorded with Smokey Robinson and The Crusaders and during the eighties toured and recorded (keyboards and guitar) with many reggae artists, including The Wailers,Third World and Andrew Tosh. He was also a featured vocalist on the Emmy Award winning ABC-TV series, 'I'll Fly Away' and won a Grammy and W.C.Handy Award for his work with Taj Mahal. He is currently on tour with Ruthie Foster. I have admired Larry's bass playing for some years now.


Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard

Joe Sublett on saxophones was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a Master Saxophonist. He is featured on Eric Clapton's  CD "Old Sock" and recordings by, Taj Mahal, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayal, Buddy Guy, Keb' Mo, B. B. King, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Rush, Little Feat, Leon Russell, Elton John, and Jimmy Smith among others. 

Darrell Leonard is a Grammy and W.C. Handy Award winning trumpet player, arranger, composer and producer. Darrell traveled the world with Delaney and Bonnie, Dr.John, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Leon Russell, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Glenn Frey, and Little Feat. Darrell is featured on Grammy and Academy award winning recordings by Randy Newman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Taj Mahal, B.B.King, Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, and Bonnie Raitt. Darrell is featured on the Bruce Springsteen "Wrecking Ball" CD.

I have seen Joe, Darrell, Tony, Larry Fulcher, and Johnny Lee play with the Phantom Blues Band and with Taj Mahal on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise several times. It's always a highlight for me.

Will Wheaton, Tony Braunagel, Kudisan Kai, Lisa, Maxayn Lewis, Johnny Lee Schell, Leslie Smith, and Reggie the studio mascot.

Background vocal day was really exciting and it was the day we laughed the most. Singer, songwriter, musician Will Wheaton grew up in Los Angeles and is the son of Gospel singer Juanita Wheaton. He studied music in his teens and was eventually tutored by Furman Fordham, whose former students include Lena Horne.  He became a sought-after studio background singer and has performed on projects for Natalie Cole, Coolie, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Willy DeVille, Quincy Jones,  Montell Jordan, Kenny Loggins, Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand Streisand, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder.

 Kudisan Kai whose training and resume expands from a B.A. degree classical training by Metropolitan Opera stars and opera company experience to working as a session singer in films such as Ali, Disney's Dinosaurs, Dreamworks El Dorado, and 20th Century Fox's Rio II, etc., television shows, and tours with Elton John and Chaka Khan, and others. 

The resume of Maxayn Lewis is an impressive one that includes recording with artists ranging from Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and Celine Dion to Michael Jackson and Madonna. Maxayn also sang with the Bobby Blue Bland and the Ike & Tina Turner Review during the mid-to-late 60s. She currently sings under the name Maxayn Lewis and Paulette Parker (her real name).

 Los Angeles-based singer Leslie Smith, known for his work in bands with Lester Abrams during the 1960s and 1970s, also released a few solo albums during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2005, he was inducted into the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame alongside former bandmates, with whom he continues to perform.  

When these fabulous singers came together, it was a truly magical experience. 

Here's Tony Braunagel in the drum room. If you are a drummer, you're gonna love this record because it gets the royal treatment in the paradiddle department. I learned so much from watching Tony work with everyone on the arrangements and marveled at how he gently guided us through the songs with very little effort. We were all in tune with each other.  Right before I flew to LA, Tony and I had our last phone session. It lasted three hours as we went through each song deciding on all the arrangements. When we got to the studio, Tony had it all in his head and if there was any doubt, he'd check his notes from our phone session. He kept us all on track, on time and in the groove. 

It was a mutual admiration society of musicians for 10 days straight. We all had a great time and it's evident when you hear the music. The Beat of My Heart  comes out February 20, 2017. 


Color photos by Allana Haradyn

B&W photos by Joseph Rosen


Lisa Biales is a member of The Blues Foundation.