"I"m a bit transgressive and suppressive as well," sings Lisa Marie Presley on "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," shouting out an identity crisis her third LP fully owns. The daughter of Elvis and ex-wife of Michael never jelled as a pop-rock diva (see her 2005 duet with Pink, "Shine"). Here, producer T Bone Burnett switches on his semiacoustic roots-rock way-back machine, which highlights her appealingly husky voice on the hip-swiveling "Over Me" and the Latin- scented "Weary," but generates few sparks.
The daughter of you-know-who succeeds on her third try thanks to the involvement of roots producer to the stars T Bone Burnett. Eschewing the overly fussy and slick radio-ready sound of her first two releases, Burnett cloaks these songs in a haze of thumping bass, ghostly drums, muted guitars and goth keyboards that is, despite the opening few tracks, miles away from anything commercial. Presley isn’t a great singer but her throaty, hushed, husky voice grows on you.
The trouble with being the only child of the most iconic musician of the 20th century is people expect you to go into the family business, even if it isn't your first choice, and Lisa Marie Presley waited until she was 35 years old before she released her debut album, 2003's To Whom It May Concern, suggesting she might not have been born with a burning need to express herself as a musician. Presley's lyrics had plenty to say about her inarguably remarkable life experiences, but the title of her second album, 2005's Now What, reflected a certain ambivalence about her career, as if being just another pop star no longer held much interest. Seven years after Now What, Presley has shifted gears with her third album, Storm & Grace; while her earlier work was polished, professional pop music with lots of sparkle but not so much personality, for this album Presley enlisted producer T-Bone Burnett, who helps conjure up a deeper, more organic sound that leans to swampy blues and country accents without moving too far from boilerplate roots music.
Collaborating with producer T Bone Burnett as a bid for authenticity or credibility has become perhaps the most tiresome cliché of the Americana scene over the past decade. Burnett’s distinctive aesthetic simply isn’t a good fit for every artist, and the one-size-fits-all approach that artists from Natalie Merchant and John Mellencamp to Jakob Dylan and Cassandra Wilson have taken to his work has resulted in as many middling, ill-conceived projects as it has great albums. So when Lisa Marie Presley enlisted Burnett to produce her third album, Storm & Grace, it initially seemed like yet another performer’s stab at being taken more “seriously.
The most notable aspect of the latest Lisa Marie Presley record is just how languid it sounds. The music suggests the storms in her life are over, and that that she has found grace. Hah! That’s a laugh. The lyrics reveal a different woman who still has animosity towards those who have done her wrong.