Tides of Time
Liz Stringer is a class act. That deep, smokey voice, backed up by a genuine songwriting ability, not to mention some decent musicianship, means that it is just about impossible for her to turn out a bad album, even a bad song.
The other thing I like about her is that she eschews completely the image of some fragile little waif singing sad songs with a guitar. On this album, as on her previous outing, Pendulum, her lyrics are as about as straight-talking and unsentimental and you can get. Well, that mightn’t be quite right. She can be a bit maudlin, and I guess that can tip over into sentimentality. But my point is that, basically, she doesn’t offer any sugar-coating or punch-pulling. In fact, sometimes a real edge of bitterness shines through.
So this album begins in typical Stringer territory with the opening two songs, ‘Love I Found A Flood’ and ‘First Frost’. Slow, folky ballads of love and loss that play to Stringer’s strengths as a vocalist and a guitarist. If you want a point of reference, the best one I can think of is Tracey Chapman. Think ‘Fast Car’ with a more throaty, chestier vocal quality.
Track three kicks things up a bit. ‘Featherweight’ is more up tempo and is, to my way of thinking, the catchiest track on the album. In fact, I’d say it is the best song on the album. This is not just because it provides some welcome lightness to what is, after all, an album of sadness, but because it is actually a nicely executed piece of songwriting with a genuine hook.
As with the first three tracks, so it is with the rest of the album. A few songs of heart-on-sleeve minor chords interleaved with slightly more uptempo, countrified numbers. None of them are bad — in fact, they are all pretty good — but I would also say that none of them really blow me away either. I waited in vain for a song that transcended the form, something I think she achieved on Pendulum with ‘Get Myself Together’.
I guess at the end of the day, I’m a little disappointed. Knowing how good Stringer is I was kind of hoping this new set would move into slightly different territory, or at least unleash a few songs that were a cut above the high quality singer-songwriter fare we’ve come to expect. It seems a bit unfair to criticise someone for being this good on the grounds that you want them to be great, but hey, there it is.