With a little help from T Bone Burnett, Lisa Marie Presley gets back to bluesy-country basics in ‘Storm & Grace’ and breaks free from outside expectations.
Lisa Marie Presley doesn’t seem to mind that everyone in the penthouse office of Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment in West Hollywood can see her when she extends both of her middle fingers in the direction of a reporter.
She used the gesture to exemplify how she felt about being asked to promote a “sexier image” at one point in her career. But for a woman whose life has been defined by public scrutiny, the move spoke volumes. Presley, 44, is done trying to live up to expectations that aren’t her own.
More proof? Her first album in seven years, “Storm & Grace” (out this week) finds Presley singing, “She got no talent of her own, it’s just her name,” on deluxe-edition track “Sticks and Stones,” her voice a painful wail while slide guitars whisk around her like unseen demons. In “Un-Break,” Presley wonders whether she was once a “backstabbing liar” and is only getting what she deserves against the sound of shuffling western-gothic grooves.
The album, her first for Universal Republic, may serve as a career reboot, but it also brings her back to her family roots, pairing her dusty, robust vocals with moody country and blues accents made famous by the Sun Studio recording house that captured the voice of her father. The stripped-down affair is produced by T Bone Burnett, an artist with a reputation for possessing a reverential, encyclopedic view of the American songbook.
It’s a far cry from Presley’s last album — a polished affair marked by glossy, Top 40 guitars and studio-enhanced vocals. “Yeah, I know,” Presley interrupts talk about the slick nature of her last release. “I was behind that. I tried to smooth it over, to hide behind it. I wanted louder guitars. I wanted the vocals tripled. All that.”
“I was insulated,” Presley says of that time, adding that she surrounded herself with a team of friends and employees who told her only what she wanted to hear.
“There was a scene woven around me that I had helped weave,” she says. “It was a personal scene -- employees, friends. It was an entourage. That’s all a big mistake. It’s all the stuff that happens to a typical L.A., high-profile…”
Presley trails off and waves her hand, palm up, as if to say, “You know, that scene.” But no one really does. After all, Elvis, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, had but one daughter, and it’s not many who see their childhood home in Memphis, Tenn., become an internationally renown tourist attraction. That says nothing of Presley’s penchant for dominating the tabloids in her late 20s and early 30s, largely due to her short-lived marriage to Michael Jackson.
After releasing and promoting “Now What,” Presley embarked on a research project: herself. While certainly not ignorant of what was said and written about her -- specifically the outside expectations of how she was or wasn’t living up to her last name -- Presley says she was shielded from much of it.