Ann Nesby | The Lula Lee Project

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Ann Nesby – The Lulu Lee Project


The Sounds of Blackness must be sorely missing Ann Nesby
long after she pursued her solo career about twelve years.  This mass choir from Minneapolis is definitely an engaging group
with a fascinating repertoire of soul, jazz, world, pop, classical, and gospel
all wrapped into one.  Under the guidance of leaders Gary Hines and producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the Sounds with Nesby as the primary lead vocalist brought us R&B inspirational hits during the early to mid nineties with “The Pressure”, “Testify”, “I Believe”, & “Optimistic”. Yet the bottom
line is we rarely hear their recorded body of work since Nesby’s departure
(even though contributes the lead vocals for “Heaven” and the title track
of  The Sounds’ 2005 Stellar Award
winning Unity), which is very sad.  I am more than sure The Sounds are ecstatic
for Nesby, who has remained in the recording limelight since first releasing
“I’m Here For You” in 1996, and always manages a steady crossover appeal on the
charts.  In fact, she easily can get away
with pleasing both the loyal gospel audiences and the R&B/soul lovers at
the same time, a daring balancing act.   Whether
it is romance ballads (“Put It On Paper” in duet with Al Green, “I Apologize”),
inspirational messages (“Make Me Better”), or dance floor fillers (“Let Your
Will Be Done” featuring Ricky Dillard & New G), Nesby continues to bridge
gospel and R&B with shear ease towards old school and new school audiences.


In knowing her artistic flexibility, Nesby has gone against
her normal R&B/contemporary gospel hybrid grain on occasion with her first
full-length release in 2006 dedicated to her gospel roots, “In The Spirit.”
This highly-spirited session featuring her personal backup band live in the
studio was extremely effective because of Nesby’s raw and powerful voice she
always brings to the table.  Then there
are the occasional risky moves such as the case with her latest disc – The
Lula Lee Project
– that can catch people by surprise on the first
go-round but will probably add some newer listeners to the already loyal fan


So who is this woman called Lula Lee?  According to Nesby, “Lula Lee is the real
‘Ann Nesby’, she is who my family and friends see on a daily basis.”  Naming the title after her alter ego, some
naysayers might be thinking that Nesby could be capitalizing on the same
premise for Beyonce’s new release “I Am Sasha Fierce.”  Whether this is Lula Lee or someone else,
this Tyscot & It’s Time Child release is filled with joyful abandon – the
only way Nesby can vocally fly.


By a long shot, the first single, “I Found A Place,” and “Too Late” qualify as
the biggest left-of-center experiments that Nesby has invested in.  These two tracks are fused together in an
intense funk-rock extravaganza.  Nesby’s
voice literally explodes as if she’s leading a church testimonial service with
Tonex serving as the musical director providing industrial strength buzz saw
guitars and head-banging beats. 


“I Trust You Lord” should catch the radar of gospel radio
stations with its appealing praise and worship invitation graced by Nesby’s
robust vocal delivery and compelling lyrics: “You never come short of Your


In what could pass as a modern day torch song, “Went Through
Hell,” weighs the endurance of painful moments that Christians suffer on earth
to gain the treasures of heaven. 


There are plenty of several chilled-out funk underpinnings,
which are Nesby hit-making calling cards most of the time.  “Pressure Makes Diamonds” is a mini sermon
about those ‘diamonds in the rough’ that pass the challenging tests of
life.  “Sky Is The Limit” breaks down
stories of persons down on their material luck and how faith can see them
through the worst of times.  Finally
“Higher” illustrates the fine art of practicing patience when problems
overwhelm us, including the story of the children of Israel that were lost in the
wilderness (Leviticus 26).   


Don’t worry dance club aficionados.  One area Nesby excels in is the dance
department.  Following in the footsteps
of “Can I Get A Witness”, “Love Is What We Need”, and “Let Your Will Be Done”,
“So Much Joy” closes out Lulu Lee by letting loose with the best of house music
and traditional church foot-stomping praise. 


In the big picture, I can not fathom if The Lulu Lee Project
breaks a lot of new ground or reveals that alter ego within her.  I will say, however, this disc from beginning
to end is highly recommended because of Nesby’s artistic capabilities in
adapting to harder edge tracks of Tonex, and her overall vocal depth that keeps
listeners interested.  Urban music
audiences of all ages and tastes should be proud in having such a class act
with such classy professionalism.


Peggy Oliver

The Urban Music Scene

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