New Orleans singer-songwriter Lilli Lewis gets into storyteller mode on her new album Americana, skipping through an assortment of musical styles that bridge folk, rock, and R&B with ease. Of course, you might have missed it had you gone looking for the album on Spotify last week — due to ongoing name issues with blues singer Lady A (who appears on one track) and the country trio, the streaming giant’s software flagged the project and removed it for a few days before finally restoring it.
In “Copper John,” Lewis sounds right at home playing the mystic troubadour, patiently unfurling her tale about a “city of unseen prophets” in country-folk surroundings. Electric guitar adds some Western overtones, while atmospheric pedal steel and Lewis’ piano work all complement one another without overcrowding. The beat isn’t hasty, but it’s steady — we’re all along for the ride here.
“The yellow-eyed peaceful warrior they call Copper John/Made an offering patient armor to help me carry on,” Lewis sings, her rangy voice sweeping up at the top of the phrase and diving back down soulfully. A “Copper John” is apparently a type of a fly-fishing lure with a gold bead, though it’s not clear if she’s singing about the patience required to land one’s dinner or something else.
Instead, Lewis is recounting lessons handed down from the prophets about living one’s truth and finding the wherewithal to persevere, understanding that time is a finite resource and that a companion will always help the harsh days go down a little more smoothly. And above all, don’t get too greedy when seeking out the pleasures of this existence: “If you’re waiting for the sunrise and you meet at the dawn/Take your fill of the loving and pass it on,” Lewis sings.
Before she wraps up with one last exuberant chorus, Lewis issues a final, sage warning. “You can sing all you want of a brighter tomorrow/But now is all you’ve got, so …” Lewis does a thorough job of outlining all the tools necessary to hack one’s existence in “Copper John,” but never allows us to forget that the journey is at least as important as the final destination.