Liz Longley a Glorious New Voice

Liz Longley
Sugar Hill 4108
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Looking for a glorious new voice? Liz Longley came out of Boston's Berklee College of Music a few years back and immediately began drawing comparisons to Shawn Colvin, Natalie Cole, and Nanci Griffith. That was the excitement speaking, as she doesn't sound like any of them and that will be just fine with anyone lucky enough to hear her. Longley sings with all the power of a pop star, but with the wisdom of a mature performer who knows the difference between presentation and pyrotechnics. You'll hear some of those whispery tones female country singers favor these days, but also delightful catches, full-throated soaring scales, and lower-register grit. She's pretty darn handy with the pen as well, which is to say that Ms. Longley is the real deal.

Longley's Sugar Hill release is her third full release and, for better and occasionally for worse, it's aimed at breaking through Nashville's noisy and competitive scene. There are songs on this record that are just about as good as songwriting gets. "Skin and Bones" has that Appalachia with ominous undertones feel that's evocative of a David Olney song; and "We Run," is an inspirational pop/rock anthem in honor of a cousin she lost to 9/11. (Longley also performed this song as part of the Boston Strong campaign.) Then there's her confessional "Bad Habit," an anti-tribute to a bad relationship that should have ended sooner; and "This Is Not the End," an honest look at not being able to let go. But even these pale compared to "Memphis," destined to become the earworm you'll feel blessed to have living in your head. It's another song about something that may or may not be ending, this one dished out with a warning. Longley frames it in a signature tune and about as much raw emotion as a body can take without choking. The only thing that prevents me from declaring the entire album one for the ages is the feeling that there's more going on here than is needed. I've heard most of these songs in Longley solo performances that I much prefer to the slick studio processing. Whether you will or not depends upon how you feel about Nashville records aimed at country/pop audiences. There is, however, an old adage about gilding and lilies. Make no mistake; Liz Longley is a rare lily indeed, so maybe we can dispense with the gilt.  Rob Weir

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