by Mark Corroto
Singer (and multi-instrumentalist) Gina Leishman’s music brings to mind Tom Waits. Well that is, except for the voice. She indeed has quite a pretty one. In My Skin is the second to feature her music, songwriting, and vocals. Bed Time (c’estquoi music, 2004) shares some of the same guest musicians: bassist Greg Cohen, guitarist Marc Ribot, and drummer Kenny Wolleson. Here, the violin and guitar chores are taken up by Charlie Burnham and Matt Munisteri.
Like Waits, Leishman has a knack for a turn of phrase. Her lost loves don’t deter her merriment, even when she sings “He said I feel I’ve known you all my life/She said I know/He said I think I love you/And by the way have you met my wife. And, like Waits, she has the good sense to strip her arrangements down to this simple string quartet. Leishman’s affectionate ukulele playing is accompanied by sparse violin, bass, and guitar.
Before Leishman fronted her own band she was a co-founder of the septet Kamikaze Ground Crew, with Steven Bernstein and Doug Wieselman. She co-leads Msr. Wau-Wa band, a quintet dedicated to the songs of Bertolt Brecht, and can also be found working in theater and, has written the opera Burning Dreams.
Her vinegary lyrics are for self described hammock songs, strummed and tasting somewhat acerbic. Love is sometimes lost; mostly the femme fatale is gone before she loses the game: “Here today gone tomorrow/Sometimes it rains sometimes shine/And so when I’m pining or feeling blue/I pack my bags and I don’t think of you.
Leishman’s self-referential portrait, “Girl With A Curl, is a wispy tale of a girl’s playing with music, musicians, and among men. The child’s song “Nightwind learns the lessons of 9/11: “Cries on the night wind/Echoes of empires’ fall/Ours in the making/Sighs on the night wind/Falling of buildings tall/There for the taking.
The favorite composition here might be the ancient wisdom of “Food First (Love Later), and she wasn’t born Italian! Here’s a sample… You can try and eat your dreams/But they’ll leave you wanting more.