When she got ready to record “The Laziest Girl in Town,” her first CD in five years, Little Rock native Elizabeth McQueen decided to do it the old-fashioned way.
On the advice of her boss, Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, she has been listening to a lot of great girl singers, including Nina Simone, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald.
“I’ll never be able to see those women live,” McQueen explained during an interview from the home she shares in Austin with her husband, David Sanger (The Wheel’s drummer) and their 2-year-old daughter, Lisel. “Most of what I’m going to get are from recordings.”
When Simone, Horne and Fitzgerald went into the studio, everything was recorded at one time in one room, McQueen explained.
McQueen thought the sound of those early recordings was so “great and vibrant and alive” that she started to think about why she was so attracted to them.
“I kinda wanted to create a record where we had that same kind of intimacy and ethos to it,” she said.
Her time as the Wheel’s girl singer helped McQueen expand her musical horizons.
“After being with the band for five years, my writing style had changed, and I thought it was time to do something totally different than anything I had put out under my own name in the past,” she explained.
On other CDs, Sanger and his drums would be put in a room of their own, as would be the horns and the saxophone.
“Drums are pretty loud, even if they’re played softly,” she said. “They will pretty much bleed into every microphone.”
McQueen, who at 33 is expecting her second child, was certain of her vision but had to convince Sanger and the couple’s sound engineer to see it her way.
“They said, ‘If you do this and someone makes a mistake, then you have to live with the mistake or go back and record the entire song again,’” said McQueen. “You can’t go back and fix someone’s solo or bad note.”
McQueen stood firm.
“If people know they can’t go back and fix it, they’ll play like they can’t go back and fix it,” she said with a laugh.
As it turns out, McQueen was right.
“It was actually one of the most positive recording experiences I’ve ever had,” she explained. “It’s a testament to the guys I had on the record – they were game for what was going on and they checked their egos at the door.”
“Everyone was on their game,” she explained. “We captured really good performances. It gives a really nice warm sound to the music.”
The CD opens with “You’re To Blame,” a kooky, upbeat bossa nova thanking a sweetheart for new-found happiness.
McQueen, who loves the big band sound and admits to being a better swing singer than a country singer, lets loose in “Mind of Men,” a finger-snapping romp across the mine field in the battle of the sexes.
The title cut, written by Cole Porter, makes you want to go out on the front porch with a glass of iced tea and just watch the world drift by.
McQueen and Sanger teamed up for “Gone, Solid Gone,” a “goofy, but swinging” feel-good love song.
The CD turns maternal with “Anyone But You,” written one day while Lisel napped.
“Just Let Go” could serve as a textbook for how to be gracious and forgiving during a painful breakup.
The languid, jazzed-up “Skeletons in the Closet,” which Sanger wrote, would be perfect on the soundtrack of old “Peter Gunn” reruns.
“The Laziest Girl in Town” has been receiving praise from fans and critics alike – that’s just fine with McQueen.
“People have been really cool, which has been nice,” she said. “You never know what everyone’s are going to think. We’re lucky people have liked it.”
McQueen and the band are heading for Hawaii next month and March is “pretty busy.”
“I stop traveling outside of Texas March 26,” she said. “The new baby is due April 28.”
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