Lisa St. Lou: Ain’t No Good Man

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Lisa St. Lou

Ain’t No Good Man
Blue Strawberry, St. Louis, MO, November 27, 2019
Reviewed by Chuck Lavazzi

Lisa St. Lou

There’s no doubt about it, Lisa St. Lou and her music director/song-writing partner Tor Hyams are the Dynamic Duo of song performance.

St. Lou has a powerful, flexible, wide-ranging voice with which she can apparently do pretty much anything. She can purr and roar, cry and laugh, go intimate one moment and bigger-than-life the next. She’s the real deal, with enough energy to power a small city.

Hyams, for his part, is a muscular, barrelhouse–style pianist who bangs out power chords like Dr. John on steroids. His voice blends perfectly with St. Lou’s in their many duets. Together, they are an unstoppable force of nature.

So, yeah, their new show Ain’t No Good Man really rocked the Blue Strawberry and got an enthusiastic reception from a crowd that appeared to consist mostly of family, friends, and former Ritenour High School classmates of St. Lou, who originally hailed from our fair city.

That local connection was also, unfortunately, a bit of a liability for those of us for whom she was a total stranger. There were too many “shout outs” to friends of the duo and far too many little in-jokes shared with the people they knew well. A little of that is entirely understandable when you know you have a bunch of fans in the house, but there’s a point at which it begins to feel like someone else’s party.

My other issue with the evening was that it wasn’t really a cabaret show so much as a live performance of all the studio cuts on their soon-to-be-released album Ain’t No Good Man. The album itself boasts a stellar assortment of New Orleans-based stars such as Ivan and Cyril Neville (nephew and brother, respectively, of the legendary Aaron Neville) and the great Irma Thomas, a.k.a. “The Soul Queen of New Orleans.” Without all that aural variety and big-band backup, the songs—all originals by St. Lou and Hyams—had a kind of sameness that had me checking my Fitbit more than once.

That said, many of the individual songs were pretty potent stuff. “Never Enough for a Man” (a duet with Thomas on the album) was a rich blues number about the pain of being seen as a continual disappointment. The title cut spoke persuasively of the despair that comes from being betrayed by a loved one (in this case, St. Lou’s ex-husband). “Miracle in Motion” was a soulful portrayal of love at first sight. And who could resist the affirmation of “I’ve Seen the Light”?

There was, in short, some solid material here. What the show needs right now is a director who can suggest between-song patter that goes beyond memories of the recording sessions and who can help give it all a dramatic arc and sense of pacing that would make it more of a cabaret show than a set list.

This was Lisa St. Lou’s second visit to Mound City.
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I missed the first one because of schedule conflicts, but I hope to see her here again, maybe with a more varied mix of material. She and Hyams have, I think, the talent and dedication to make whatever they decide to do next a hit.

Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.