‘I Love You Always Forever’ (from the multiple-platinum selling Now In A Minute) was such a huge hit for Donna Lewis – a #1 chart hit / dance-pop classic for which people around the globe still have boundless affection – the 1996 song will always be the one for which many fans know her. But the Welsh native is an artist of many dimensions, as she has demonstrated with efforts ranging from At the Beginning, her charming duet with Richard Marx from the Anastasia soundtrack, to Be Still, her lovely voice and piano album. True to its title, her eagerly awaited new album, Brand New Day, is a striking departure from anything she has done before. Produced by her longtime friend and collaborator David Torn, who arranged all the songs, Brand New Day redefines her as an artist while maintaining the wonderful open qualities her fans love.
Lewis’ fifth studio recording is an intimate, jazz-infused covers/original album. The conservatory-trained daughter of a jazz pianist has heretofore forged her place in the pop world through styles like atmospheric art pop, singer/songwriter folk, traditional jazz, and classical. While Lewis’ last album, 2008’s In the Pink, was heavily electronic, Brand New Day explores a much more stripped-down acoustic sound. Lewis has toured often in a duo setting, accompanying herself on piano with a bassist at her side; here, however, she pares down her focus even further by handling only the vocals, leaving all instrumental duties with the capable trio featuring pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King, who are perfectly suited to back Lewis on this project.
Along with three originals (the languid ‘Sleep’, the title track ‘Brand New Day’ and a ruminative reworking of ‘I Love You Always Forever’), Lewis and her trio delve into a handful of inspired cover songs that cross stylistic boundaries from the fantastical latter-David Bowie number ‘Bring Me the Head of the Disco King’, to Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me’, to Damien Rice’s ‘Amie’. What’s particularly invigorating here is how untethered Iverson, Anderson and King perform. As a trio, they interact clearly, fluidly and adventurously on Brand New Day even as they supply Lewis the generous framework she deserves as a vocalist. And then there’s Lewis herself, with her cherubic, fuzzy coo of a voice. She digs into these songs with care and expertise, drawing out her phrases and enveloping a tune in multiple layers of meaning. This is perhaps best expressed in her delicate reworking of Chocolate Genius’ 1998 soul ballad ‘My Mom’, in which Lewis takes an already heart-wrenching song about watching a parent succumb to dementia and brings out the most poignant, tender aspects of the piece via her soft, lilting vocal delivery. Much like on the rest of Brand New Day, the singer’s delicate tone contrasts subtly with her experienced choices, creating a beautiful and fascinating dichotomy.
(Some text adapted from All Music Guide)