Take the pure sound of Americana, add in a slow swirling melody, a timeless sentiment, and an indie aura, and you’ll find the foundation of “The Waves”, a song by Anna Lee & the Authority. Anna Lee is a songwriter from Sonoma County, who grew up in nature, surrounded by her family. She first played live in a church backing up her dad on rhythm guitar. Music soon became her emotional escape valve and a way to express images, memories and feelings. Listening to her recordings you become aware that there is no musical element that is ever more exceptional than her voice. From the fuzziest recording of Little Jessie Jesus and “Mama” to the full crystal clear takes on “The Waves”, Anna Lee cuts clear to the foreground, grabbing and holding your attention in the sweetest embrace.
On “The Waves” she floats gracefully above the shimmering guitars and echoey drums, her mercurial voice taking on different shapes to fit the mood, as she sings: “Death came and it showed us the way, we held you and each other and rode the waves.” All the fierceness and fragility of a fugitive moment living right there in her voice.
The expansive, mellow psychedelia of the track is enthralling, with Anna Lee’s analgesic vocals leading us through hopes and expectations: “And I’ll see you on the other side, other side of this sky.”
She sounds otherworldly, celestial, her impressive ability to transcend genre and era with seeming ease, is nothing short of divine. There are of course subtle hints of the greats in her voice, like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Carole King, but Anna Lee still manages to sound distinct within these switching modes.
More than that, though, “The Waves” might serve as something altogether more vital in terms of Anna Lee & the Authority’s catalogue – it could be the key to unlocking some of the leaps and bounds in her writing from track to track.
“The Waves” plays to so many of Anna Lee strengths – nuanced storytelling, panoramic composition and the ability to mine subtle drama from low-key sonic surroundings. Moreover, unlike many of her contemporaries, she delights in filling her songs with her persuasive personality.
Each bar of her music acts as a slither of insight into the creative process of an artist who allows her listeners into her creative space. “The Waves” conveys a knack for melody, empathy, and ambiance, each coloring in a distinct shade of the Anna Lee oeuvre.
There is plenty to offer in terms of mood and lyricism, not to mention the enigmatic riches to be had from her voice. “The Waves” also proposes the clarity and succinct production choices made of late. The song pulses with the urgency of someone deftly attuned to the passions and pains of life, all the while remembering the ways that an eloquent melody can heal.
For those new to her work, this is a good introduction to Anna Lee & the Authority, and moreover, an example of her incredible talent as a storyteller and composer.