Review by Alex Morton
Liz Stringer has always been a fiercely independent artist, intent on doing things her own way.
In 2009 she set up in a converted church with a sound engineer, a gifted 8-track recorder, 10 great songs and as many instruments, and singlehandedly played, recorded and released one of the best records of 2010, the largely acoustic Tides of Time.
So how do you ace that? You put together a core band of longtime cohorts and talented allies – Adam May on drums, Tim Keagan on bass and Van Walker on guitars (and sick licks) – and call on an array of guests such as John Bedggood on keyboards, Matt Walker on lap steel, Suzannah Espie on harmonies, Craig Pilkington and Adam Simmons on horns, and you head into Craig’s Audrey Studios with another batch of killer songs and make a bloody great rock record. Of course!
Liz’s songwriting gets stronger with each new release – she’s an intriguing lyricist, often leaving as much to the imagination as she gives away – and a great storyteller. Some of her best songs have the feel of mini-novellas or short stories. And her vocals make it all sound true and believable – and she really stretches out on this album, alternately tough and tender, often yearning and always soulful. Things open strongly with In Anybody’s Language, an angry diatribe about recent events in our not so lucky country. In fact there’s not a weak spot on the album – Colourblind sounds like some bastard child of Exile on Main St. and Bob Dylan’s Shot of Love, all fat horns and Matt Walker’s lap steel behind Liz’s tough vocals, and Heart’s Been Trembling sounds like they roped in Keith Richards and Bobby Keys to help out. But things are also sweetened by the southern soul feel of Love Love Love, with its deep soul horn lines, courtesy of Craig Pilkington, and Liz’s harmonizing. And the gorgeous Stay With Me Here could be the greatest ballad that Bonnie Raitt never wrote, featuring a superb, yearning vocal and Matt Walker’s dobro. Angela and High Open Hills are both classic Stringer, ..Hills especially a perfect crash-course in narrative songwriting, and great examples of Liz’s innate musicality. As is the mysterious Glutton, one of my favourite tracks on a record full of favourites. The title track winds things up in great style, with the band echoing The E-Street Band and reminding us, like all great rock albums, of the redemptive power of rock and roll.
So – many influences at work here, but the aptly titled Warm In The Darkness is all about inspiration rather than imitation, and a major achievement from one of our true originals. And if you want to hear how good this album really sounds, crank it up and play it loud. Loud and proud!
(If you haven’t heard all or any of Liz Stringer’s previous 3 albums you should, as the man says, do yourself a favour. There’s not a dud moment on any of ‘em and they’re all available from her website or any independent record store worth its salt.)
Reviewed and endorsed by Alex Morton!
The Melbourne album launch takes place
Sunday 10th June – Corner Hotel
Tix available here