Like her mother before her, the last decade has seen American beauty Annie Marie Dolan emerge from the shadows to forge an exciting solo recording career that is blossoming in Europe and earning her rave reviews in the music press. As the daughter of Linda Gail Lewis, whose brother is none other than “The Ferriday Fireball” Jerry Lee Lewis, music has been part of the fabric of Annie’s life from the get-go. Along with sister MaryJean, Annie would happily wile away car journeys singing along to the radio, be it George Jones or Lynyrd Skynyrd. This clearly stood her in good stead for as with Linda Gail and MaryJean, Annie’s style defies easy categorisation; she’s as at home delivering a top notch rocker à la Johnny B. Goode as she is an old time standard or a soulful spiritual.
Given her family connections, it’s tempting to conclude that a recording career was preordained, but for many years this softly spoken Memphis-born belle with her blond tresses and model looks eschewed the showbiz path, favouring instead her college studies and a settled domestic life – hardly the kind of headline-grabbing antics for which the Lewis clan have come to be known. However, in 2000 all that was to change when Annie accompanied Linda Gail as her backing vocalist on a Europe-wide tour with six time Grammy Award-winner Van Morrison. Van was so bowled over by Annie’s voice that he asked her to perform the duet ‘Irish Heartbeat’ with him on stage in Dublin. In fact, so impressed was Van that he invited Annie to record three of his songs which he also produced. What had started as a childhood pastime with singing in church and for fun at family gatherings, was now starting to coalesce into a realistic career opportunity; after all, it’s not every day a young singer receives such a glowing commendation from one of music’s most famously exacting elder statesmen.
Whilst Linda Gail’s career on the European rock’n’roll scene continued to thrive, she and her daughters conceived a new project under the banner of The Lewis 3, the brainchild of Eddie Braddock, former Stax Records publicity man and Linda’s devoted husband. The girls wanted to record an authentic roots music album that would draw upon all the elements they know and love, delivered with the emotion many feel has long been missing from most of the glossy pop churned out by the Nashville machine. In Perfect World they succeeded in fusing old-school country, gospel, folk and bluegrass with great sincerity and skill, their voices blending in seamless harmony, all underscored by Ray Thompson’s pared down instrumentation and masterful production. Recorded in Wales, the album was released to critical acclaim in 2006 and a short tour followed soon after.
Thus catapulted into the music business, Annie’s belief in herself as a live performer grew, no doubt bolstered by appearances alongside Kris Kristofferson, Chrissie Hynde and Shakin’ Stevens. In 2007 she was back in the studio with Linda Gail, guitarist Jeroen van Gasteren, drummer “Memphis” Ed Reeves, pedal steel player Tim “Steelbone” Cook, former Blue Cat bassist Paul Diffin (who produced Linda’s album Hungry Hill in 2006), and ready to begin work on her debut album. Recorded in San Diego with additional material cut in London, England and in Gävle, Sweden where the Misses Lewis have long enjoyed tremendous popularity, I had the pleasure of submitting a CD’s worth of songs for consideration, six of which made the final selection. As well as applying a new spin to Dave Rich’s 1959 outing ‘Burn On Love Fire’, Janis Martin’s ‘Blues Keep Calling’ and Wynona Carr’s ‘The Weather Man’, Annie’s subsequent collaboration with singer/songwriter Joakim Arnell of The Refreshments, the hugely successful Swedish band with whom Linda has long been affiliated, resulted in several stunning duets, of which the title track ‘Heart To Heart’ is one.
Two tracks in particular, ‘You Do’ written by Swedish rockabilly filly Eva Eastwood and ‘Keep Your Hands Off It’ are straight ahead rock’n’roll and rendered in a style which would no doubt make that “mean old man” Jerry Lee smile. Annie’s flirtatious treatment of Ella Johnson’s ‘That’s What You Gotta Do’ with its sassy trombone is greatly enhanced by vocal backing from erstwhile pub-rockers Chas and Dave, whose long-time friendship with the Lewises dates back to the early 60s when Chas Hodges – then with Joe Meek-produced band The Outlaws – played bass for Jerry Lee on many of his UK tours. Indeed, it was Jerry who first suggested Chas take up the piano and the rest is history! But for this gal’s money, ‘Cut To The Chase’ written by Arnell, rates as the stand-out cut and is as radio-friendly slice of quality country pop as one could wish for in this age of identikit Pro-Tooled popstrels.
With Heart To Heart scoring column inches and winning Annie new fans from across the musical spectrum, one can only imagine the accomplishments that lie ahead for this talented yet disarmingly modest, down-to-earth young woman as she prepares to go on tour with Linda Gail and Jerry Lee. Legendary record executive Al Bell once said, “That girl can bring a tear to a song the way Otis Redding did”. Annie’s proving she can rock out with the best of ’em, too.
This really is an impressive CD but, given her peidgree, it should come as no surprise. Now Dig This
Blessed with a beautiful voice… this is entertainment from start to finish… highly recommended. UK Rock
Annie Marie’s voice bubbles happily like a Spring stream making this an uplifting album. Nostalgia
… you will be hooked on the music in a matter of seconds… this gal might look slight and tiny but boy, does she pack a vocal punch. A good varied musical mix with something for everyone. Maverick
Heart To Heart is a definite hit with me… I wouldn’t expect anything less from Annie Marie, a highly talented singer with an established Rock’n’Roll background. The more I listen to this album, the more I like it. Maggie’s Blue Suede News