Despite the quality guest appearances, there’s not much to excite on this one.

Label: Independent – Lisa Weyerhaeuser
Time: 14 tracks / 57 Minutes

This one intrigued me when it became available for review. Weyerhaeuser’s alter ego as children’s entertainer La La Lisa was somewhat off-putting, but her work with Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman suggested that she might have qualities as a songwriter. Which way would it go?

The Larry Norman influence is there on the first track, a decent cover of his “I Hope I’ll See You in Heaven.” The “I love you”s in “Alone Again” are a bit like the old Norman song with the same words – and I wonder whether the melody and tone of “Close beside Me” could have been ‘borrowed’ from Norman’s one-time protégé Tom Howard.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of La La Lisa, too. “Little Boy Blue” sounds like a lullaby, or is a bit condescending, if it’s aimed at someone over six years old. And whereas kids might be kept happy just with a bouncy tune, as an adult I’d like a bit more depth. Actually, I’d like some bouncy tunes on here, or at least a few memorable ones.

There are some quality guest appearances on four tracks. Randy Stonehill’s vocals complement Weyerhaeuser’s well on “Beautiful to Me” (which has some nice dobro from Emmett Franz); Ken Lewis adds percussion to “Petrified Forest” and Phil Keaggy adds his superb guitar work to both “Freedom” – the album’s strongest track – and “Sunday Drive.” Keaggy’s playing is as well-judged, chiming and beautiful as ever, but if you take a plate with a plain digestive biscuit and put caviar on it, it may be more expensive, but it’s still a digestive biscuit.

That’s how I see this album: fairly plain. Consistently mid-tempo and more remarkable for what it lacks than what it offers, it is short of memorable tunes, short of worthwhile original content, short of passionate vocals (where’s the feeling in “Oh Freedom”?) and short of creative writing. Even on one of the two tracks with any noticeable imagery, the metaphor is more of a hindrance than a help:
     “Here we are standing in a petrified forest
     Don’t know how to move on.
     Maybe this is what forgiveness looks like
     But I need a safe place.”

I am sure she’s trying to say that, like petrified trees, the relationship isn’t moving. But surely she does not mean to say that forgiveness looks cold, hard and unmoving?

Producer Matthew Clark, who has some tasty guitar moments of his own, has done what he can and put some clear, shiny tones into the disc’s sound and there is a fair balance of material on here, ranging from Christmas to Sunday driving (where else will you get a song with the line “I wonder what they’re thinking in their mellow bovine ways” this year?). Most are Christian, a couple are about freedom and three feature the word ‘alone,’ so that may constitute a theme.

But it desperately needs some decent songs and some life. In the end, not being too bothered about her parents’ old car or watching cows on Sunday, the things that I could identify with have been done so often, by so many and so much better.

Derek Walker