January is set to be a big month for Elizabeth McQueen.
On the first day of the year she will leave her position as female vocalist for Asleep at the Wheel. After eight years, a Grammy nomination and close to one million miles traveled she is saying goodbye.

One week later, she releases her fourth solo CD.

The Laziest Remix, a collaboration with St. Louis soul-freakout-folk band Brothers Lazaroff, pushes McQueen far beyond her American roots comfort zone. This collection, under the name Elizabeth McQueen Meet Brothers Lazaroff, takes five songs solidly based in the tradition of mid 20th century vocal jazz from her 2010 release The Laziest Girl in Town, plus one song from The Brothers catalogue and infuses them with elements of hip-hop, noise rock, R&B and reggae. The outcome is a fresh reworking of the music that bring together the best of multiple genres into groovy, danceable art-form.

It's not exactly what you might expect from a woman who has been traveling with a legendary Western Swing band for close to decade. But McQueen has never felt beholden to a strict creative journey. Her first record, 2003's Fresh Up Club, which Jim Caliguiri aptly described as "a little bit country and a whole lotta rock and roll" garnered local and national praise as did her almost country-free tribute to Pub Rock, Happy Doing What We're Doing. In 2010, however she did a bit of a musical about face, stepping away from Americana and into the world of vocal jazz with her CD, The Laziest Girl in Town.

But jazz was not enough for McQueen. She began to seek a sound that combined her love of American roots with all the other sonic references swirling inside her head. Hip-Hop, Reggae, soundscapes, electronic music -- she had never made room for these in her own work but she wanted to. So she called on some old friends and former bandmates to help her remix and reimagine her songs and her sound.

It was Jeff Lazaroff and his former Austin guitar slinger brother David who took the helm and brought their musical cohorts together to create what has become The Laziest Remix. Along with band members Teddy Brookins, Mo Egeton, Grover Stewart and engineer Jacob Dettering, they refashioned and re-envisioned the sound and songs from McQueen's "The Laziest Girl In Town." Drawing from the influences Brothers Lazaroff were exploring with their St. Louis experiences (hip-hop, funk, reggae and a little noise too) they put the songs that had originally been styled as retro jazz through their own prism and out came a completely fresh view of the recordings.

One of McQueen's inspirations was the "Verve Remixed" series, which she had become familiar with some 10 years ago while interning at Austin's public radio station, KUT. "My job was to open CD's that came in for review, and give them a first listen. I remember hearing these songs, DJ's remixing some of the great jazz of the 20th century, and just being blown away. After I made The Laziest Girl in Town it occured to me that I wanted to do a similar thing with my own music. I started talking to my friend David Lazaroff, from Brothers Lazaroff, about remixing the songs. We dropped the idea due to life (McQueen became pregnant with her second child right before the release of Laziest Girl in Town) and then picked it back up on a lark two years later. We remixed two songs and loved the result so much that we decided to make a full project of it."

Born in Little Rock and raised in Columbia, Maryland, Elizabeth McQueen started her music career 13 years ago in Austin by fronting her own band, The Firebrands, and making name for herself as one of the music city's most infectious voices. Known for her beautiful and timeless vocal style and buoyant and joyous live shows, she quickly became the one one to watch upon her arrival in Texas. One short year after settling in Austin, she was named by the Austin Chronicle as a young musician to watch. Of her 2003 SXSW performance the Austin Chronicle's Jerry Renshaw said: " What Elizabeth McQueen is doing these days is a far cry from Patsy Cline, Connie Smith, and Kitty Wells and certainly miles away from the crop of Nashville angels. In a marketplace that's saturated with traditional female country singers, that difference, along with her charm, talent, and attitude, may be just what she needs to really stand out."

And stand out she did.

Two CDs followed and the national and international praise began to flow in. No Depression Magazine called her "Unassuming, self-assured, and a splendid interpreter." The Fresh Up Club, and Happy Doing What We're Doing made many an Austin Top 10 list, yet it wasn't until she joined forces with Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel that her fortune began to take off.

In 2004 McQueen was cast in Benson's stage play "A Ride With Bob" and soon after was offered the job as female vocalist and rhythm guitar player for Ray's band Asleep at the Wheel. Since that time, she has traveled over a million miles in 20 countries and played over a thousand gigs with the band. From the dancehalls of Texas to Radio City Music Hall to the Kennedy Center, McQueen has impressed audiences around the world with her crystal clear voice from another time. A voice that in many ways seemed custom made for Asleep at the Wheel. "Not everyone has the right voice for this kind of music," says Benson, "she fit right in and added a component to the music that can't be measured."

A particularly special moment during this time for Elizabeth was her duet with Willie Nelson on 2009's Grammy-nominated Willie and the Wheel. That song, "Sitting on Top of the World," not only garnered praise from critics, (The Washington Post called it a "standout moment") but performing the song one of the most intense live experiences of McQueen's career. "Singing with Willie Nelson was a lesson in openness and artistry," she says, "He looked directly into my eyes every night, and I realized that the key to a great performance is that connection, that willingness to open yourself up to an audience, another band member, everyone."

Another highlight was when McQueen was featured on the cover of the Austin Chronicle at the invitation of Margaret Moser. "I don't think there's a musician in Austin who doesn't day dream about being on the cover of the Chronicle," says McQueen. "It felt totally honored and humbled."

Also very important to McQueen also has been the unmatchable experience of traveling with her children for almost five years.. In 2009, only six weeks after the birth of their first daughter Lisel, Elizabeth, her husband and Wheel drummer David Sanger, and their newborn embarked on what would become an one of the more epic family vacations of all time.Transporting themselves to gigs in a converted van (nicknamed "The Baby Bus") McQueen and family (soon adding second daughter Willow to the mix in 2011) traversed 49 states, put almost 150,000 miles on the odometer and logged tours to Canada, Europe and even Hawaii. "It's been the most incredible adventure ever" says McQueen, "And I will be eternally grateful to Ray for tolerating the idea. He allowed us to travel as a family, and along with the rest of the Wheel's organization, supported us the whole way."

If looking back on what has transpired the last ten years fills the singer with wonder and gratitude then looking forward imparts hope and excitement. "It's like I've finished a great novel and I feel the melancholy of leaving it behind, " says McQueen, "but I know the sequel is sitting right on my book shelf and I can't wait to start reading. Now that's a great feeling."


 
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