July 20, 2012
Review: Feature Release in Rhythms Magazine - July 2012 Issue - written by Brian Wise.
Last year when I was in the USA, a friend introduced me to a well-known Grammy Award-winning record producer and got to discussing Australian acts, as he had worked with some in recent years. I always travel with a load of Aussie releases on my laptop so I burned him a compilation CD of around twenty tracks including one from Liz Stringer’s previous album, the acoustic Tides of Time.
A few days later he emailed me to tell me that the artist who most impressed him was indeed Stringer and that he thought she could be really big in America and that he would like to hear some of her recordings with a band. High praise indeed from someone who knows a thing or two about music. I am absolutely certain that he will be as impressed as I am with Warm In The Darkness.
Stringer’s fourth album is so accomplished that it’s difficult to believe two things; that it needed arts funding to finance it and that she is not already a major act in this country. Kudos to Vitamin Records for recognising a talent that other (possibly larger) labels overseas will surely also do soon.
Good things take time and there are very few genuine examples of overnight success. After three prior albums since 2006 and more than a decade making music, it seems that it is only fair that Warm In The Darkness will be the album to break Stringer big-time, hopefully to an international audience. It is really quite stunning.
Stringer’s voice is the first thing that strikes you. It is rich, warm and emotive and sounds fabulous set against the studio band and Stringer certainly sounds the most assured that I have ever heard her. It is great to hear someone actually singing powerfully rather than affecting that breathy, meek delivery that seems to be so prevalent these days. (You know, the “listen to how sensitive I am” approach.)
That voice also delivers some equally striking and vivid imagery contained within songs that are finely crafted vignettes – both personal and social. These are some of the finest lyrics I have heard from a local artist in recent years. “It’s a Long Way Down” perfectly captures addiction and how it affects a life: “I got a job in the city/making coffee for cops and crims/Hung over, shaking and shitty/ until I got that bottle between my lips.” The ballad ‘Angela’ tells the story of abuse: “Your eyes don’t smile no more/Since he did you wrong.” The album is replete with memorable lines.
‘In Anybody’s Language’, ‘It’s a Long Way Down’, ‘Heavy Change’, ‘Heart’s Been Trembling’ (with a more frenetic vocal) and the title track are all superb uptempo rockers that allow Stringer a chance to stretch out in front of a wonderful studio band that includes a pumping horn section. Elsewhere, there are some gorgeous ballads such as ‘Stay With Me Here’ and gutsier songs like ‘Colourblind’ that steer Stringer into a bluesier mode.
Stringer plays acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin and is joined by some fine accomplices including Adam May on drums, Tim Keegan on bass, Van Walker (a great writer himself) on guitars, John Bedggood and Stephen Teakle playing keyboards and Matt Walker is on Dobro and lap steel. Suzannah Espie provides harmony vocals, while producer Craig Pilkington plays trumpet and Adam Simmons is on sax. The album was recorded at Pilkington’s Audrey Studios and his production is so good – getting the ideal balance between voice and instruments – that people should be beating down his door to work with him.
June 15, 2012
"Warm In The Darkness" album review by Patrick Emery (Beat Magazine, Melbourne) June 15, 2012
A high school physics teacher once chastised us for suggesting that the apparently simple concept of ‘cold’ had any scientific basis. What we had previously identified as cold, we were told matter-of-factly, is in fact an absence of heat – something must have energy to exist. In the thermal realm, only heat has energy. And, our erstwhile teacher continued, notwithstanding the incredulity of the class, the same conceptual argument applied to what we claimed to be dark.
It’s unlikely that Liz Stringer gives a rat’s proverbial about such scientific an explanation. And that’s why when science fails, art triumphs. Stringer’s latest record, Warm In The Darkness is every bit as invigorating as a high school science class is frequently tedious.
Warm In The Darkness is a noticeable departure from Stringer’s previous releases. There’s still a good supply of folk-infused country ballads: the touching narrative of Angela, the soft and tender Love, Love, Love and the warm embrace of Stay With Me Here. Yet the striking aspects of Warm In The Darkness come when Stringer, and her tough-as-nails backing band launch into classic rock’n’roll territory. In Anybody’s Language is a classic rock track worthy of perpetual popular commendation, Glutton offers a veneer of dirty Muscle Shoals rock over a soft interior and It’s A Long Way Down renders alcoholic misdemeanour in elegant pop sensibility. With Colourblind Stringer commands the oft-violated soul-rock genre with the vocal dexterity and empathy of a southern Baptist preacher leading a Sunday morning congregation down the path of righteousness.
The mere notion of warmth in darkness would be enough to send the aforementioned physics teacher into apoplectic scientific fits, but does that matter? When you’ve got a record like this, science doesn’t enter into the equation. Just sit back, listen and enjoy.
June 06, 2012
"Warm In The Darkness" album review by Les Thomas in Unpaved, May 15, 2012
Liz Stringer’s fourth album is like a swift change into top gear, getting beyond the quieter folk of previous releases to embrace a more full-band, pop-influenced sound. Backing up her superb, honest and emotionally powerful voice are rocking guitars, organs, swinging rock drums and even a brass section to add power to adrenalin inducing Exile on Main Street-style belters like Colourblind and Heart’s Been Trembling.
There is still the presence of the more gentle folk she’s been known for to date, especially on songs like High Open Hills, Angela and Stay with Me which hit home instantly as Liz Stringer classics. Much of the lyrical content explores overcoming bad relationships or rising above personal adversity.
The production quality of Warm in the Darkness is assured with all sounds captured at Audrey Studios with Craig Pilkington behind the desk. Make no mistake. This is a phenomenal album from a major talent. We’re just lucky she calls Melbourne home.
June 06, 2012
"Warm In The Darkness" Album review by Alex Morten (Upstream Whispers), May 21st 2012
Upstream Whispers 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!
June 06, 2012
"Warm In The Darkness" and "Glutton" Album/Song review by Jeff Jenkins. HOWZAT (Living in the Land of Oz)
June 6th 2012
BETWEEN THE DARKNESS AND THE DAWN Some artists slip between the cracks. “You get what you all deserve,” Liz Stringer declares in the opening cut of her fourth album, Warm In The Darkness (out now on Vitamin Records). But on the second track, she concedes, “sometimes the grit don’t become the pearl”. Liz has toiled for the past six years, churning out world-class records that sit comfortably alongside albums from Shawn Colvin, Melissa Etheridge and Lucinda Williams. If she got what she deserved, she’d be a worldwide star. That’s not to say that Liz doesn’t have her champions – Triple R’s Neil Rogers has been a long-time supporter; indeed, he turned Howzat! on to Liz’s many charms. I guess it’s a crowded marketplace and it’s easy to overlook yet another rootsy singer-songwriter. Liz is not reinventing any wheels, but Warm In The Darkness is so strong, it’s time she got what she deserved.
Before Howzat! heard the new album, a fan told me he was slightly disappointed. He felt the album was over-produced and lacking the warmth of Liz’s previous offerings (2006’s Soon, 2008’s Pendulum, and 2010’s Tides of Time). But to Howzat!’s ears, it’s her strongest set yet. These songs are effortlessly instant. Check out the centrepiece of the album, the beautifully titled Glutton. The song swaggers and soars, as she riffs like the Rolling Stones, though the lyric aches: “"I’m a glutton,” Liz sings, “and feeding upon this pain is better than nothing.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find a stronger song this year. And the rest of the record showcases similar superior songwriting. These are songs that immediately sound like old friends, even if some of them have a restless spirit. Warm in the darkness, indeed.
In anybody’s language, Liz Stringer is a star. She launches Warm In The Darkness at the Corner on Sunday, and is also playing at the Caravan Music Club in Oakleigh on 22 June.
August 23, 2010
Live Review - "Tides of Time" Album Launch at the Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne, 16th April 2010
“Liz Stringer @ The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne (16/04/2010)”
By k13ran, Fasterlouder Website, 19th April, 2010
Walking into the Thornbury Theatre on Friday the 16th of April, or any night for that matter, one could be forgiven for thinking they’d stepped into a year 12 formal or a wedding reception. The large space, complete with gilded gold designs on the walls and ceiling was crammed with round tables, most of them full of eager punters eagerly awaiting the musical stylings of Liz Stringer.
Launching her new album (number three in five years – An impressive feat indeed), Tides of Time, Stringer appeared on stage casually and confidently. It was obvious that more than a few people in the audience knew her and that she knew quite a few of them, with shout outs and acknowledgements thrown around the entire night. Accompanied by her band comprised of drummer Adam May and bassist Tim Keegan, Stringer was also joined for several numbers by guitarists/back up vocalists Matt Walker and Jordie Lane. The onstage banter was ripe with humour and self deprecation all night with the musicians clearly enjoying themselves and there for a good time and Stringer’s musings between songs adding much information and humour to the night (topics ranging from her defending of Billy Joel’s music, offering the audience money if they can dance to a sombre tune and many deeper insights to her craft and song writing talents).
And Stringer has talent. From her guitar/banjo skills to her husky/mellow voice which is more than captivating, especially when she lets loose (which when it happened had the audience on the edge of their seats). Her ability to grab the audience’s attention and clutch it until the end of a song is nothing short of incredible. Stringer’s song writing ability is also superb, with her acoustic charged blues/country style songs telling intimate tales of her life and of others she has crossed – Although as Stringer herself pointed out, she has a bit of an obsession with the ocean and water imagery – Not that this is a bad thing!
Although the night was to launch her new CD, the setlist contained many songs from her previous albums with highlights including Featherweight -a melancholy song that had the entire audience in stunned silence at the lyrics, It’s A Long Way Down – a catchy, foot tapping song that displayed Stringer’s fine story telling skills, Get Myself Together – with a sparse low key beginning into a heavy, grungy blues ending, and Children – an extremely sad song containing the saddest lyrics of the night (“I miss you more when you’re here than when you’re away”) and accompanied by album mixer Simon Bailey on an extremely effective tremolo bass.
Other songs included the jangly country pop of You Always Wanted A Little More, First Frost – a song about the hard life farmers have, the captivating Love I Found A Flood with its jarring chorus and The Road’s Inglorious End – a song where the band clearly were enjoying themselves, with lots of smiles and knowing nods going on between the troupe.
All in all, a wonderful night of entertainment with many of the audience entranced by Stringer’s lyrics and voice, her blues/country songs are simply superb and one could say she is one of Australia’s hidden talents.
August 23, 2010
Live Review - The Basement, Sydney, "Tides of Time" Album Launch, June 2010
“Deep, understated soul soars from within”
Bernard Zuel, Sydney Morning Herald, June 19, 2010
BETWEEN songs, Liz Stringer has a knockabout feel, an everyday Australian side to her which is self-deprecating, disarming and not suggestive of particularly deep or dark crevices. You could be forgiven for thinking that here might be a yarn spinner whose poetry, lyrical and emotional, works in the plain speaking and the direct.
But when she sings, Stringer knocks those lazy assumptions into a cocked hat. Her voice, deep, wide and powerful, is like a river after days of flooding rains, lifting and carrying you inexorably. You don’t fight it; you go with it, entranced by its urgency of purpose and conviction.
She sounds lived-through rather than merely lived-in, the difference between being weathered and flattened out and being seasoned and acutely aware. You can hear that in the way she sings of people who are no longer like ‘'a kitten playing with a strip of leather on a sunny morning porch’‘ but now find themselves with ’‘bones growing in my chest’‘.
Some of them are weighed down, some of them looking out at a dustbowl or loneliness as they wait for ‘'the tow of the pulling tides of time’‘. Stringer doesn’t do empty pity and, as seen in a song such as Over the Sea, she doesn’t downplay the complexity of the emotions involved. People get hurt and not everyone escapes, but there are still a few who declare ’‘I’ll drink and dance and f—– 'til I go deaf, dumb, numb and blind’‘.
With her regular two-piece band of drummer Adam May and bassist Tim Keegan alongside her impressive guitar playing, a bit of grunt has been added to the songs from her last album, Tides of Time, which she recorded essentially alone. Some of the subtle country touches have been lost and some of the pop-rock moments more obvious on her earlier albums have been elevated. It’s a fair trade-off.
Anyway, there’s still deep but understated soul in a song such as Stay With Me Here or warmth in the as yet unrecorded Angela.
There isn’t anything ordinary about Stringer. She is, to paraphrase one of her lines, definitely not punching like a featherweight.
August 23, 2010
Profile - Rhythms Magazine
By Samuel J. Fell
Rhythms Magazine, May 2010
I’ve been an ardent fan of Melbourne based singer-songwriter, Liz Stringer ever since I met her on the footpath outside the now defunct Spanish Club after she’d played a support slot for Mia Dyson a few years ago. It was raining that night, and was quite chilly, and I remember as I talked to Stringer I rolled a cigarette backwards – perhaps I was so impressed with her set I could no longer function correctly. Either way, ever since that night I’ve watched and listened to her rise within the ranks of Australian musicians to where she is today – at the top of the pile, albeit perhaps a trifle underrated. Still, Liz Stringer is keeping it real. She compromises nothing for her art, and she does it all her own way, another reason why I, and so many others, have such respect for her and what she does.
Today sees her about to release her third record, “Tides of Time”, which follows on from debut, “Soon” (‘06) and second record, “Pendulum” ('08). Both Stringer’s previous records have faired well, amongst both critics and fans, and so it seems with her third effort, something different was in order. And in fact, “Tides of Time” comes almost by accident, although don’t mistake that for meaning it was put together without any thought. “I had all these songs and I was actually going to record them as demos just so I had them down but Simon Bailey, who engineered the record… he helped me develop it into an actual album,” Stringer explains of “Tides of Time”, which for the first time, is all Liz Stringer, from the bare percussion, to the guitar and banjo to vocals.
“So it was going to be a really simple recording but then I had a whole lot of instruments with me and so thought, ‘Well, now that I’m here I may as well do all the stuff that’s in my head,’” she adds. Stringer’s debut record, Soon, was quite sparse, being only herself and percussionist Adam May, but “Pendulum” was more of a band record, featuring Tim Keegan on bass as well. “Tides of Time” is quite a side-step for Stringer, although when you think about it, she plays a lot of solo gigs, so maybe not so much. Regardless, “Tides of Time” has turned into her third record, and a fine effort it is too.
“It was such a different process, but I really enjoyed it,” she muses. “I mean, I love recording with a band because it’s so collaborative, you’re all sharing this little world. But this one was just Simon and me in this converted church… I really enjoyed it, it was fun, and the control freak in me got to finally get its way.” The result is fantastic, and not as sparse as you may think -Stringer is possessed of a solid voice and is a fine instrumentalist and so fills the spaces as they should be. As far as accidents go, this is a good one to be sure.
“Basically I had these songs and I wanted to have good recordings of them all, but also there’s my sound which is beginning to split off into two directions now,” she explains. “The acoustic solo stuff that I do, and also the band which is really starting to find it’s own sound, so I want to, where possible, keep those two sounds separate, you know? Basically so they don’t convolute the other one, don’t water down what the other one is doing. Because all the songs on this album were a little bit too gentle and so needed to be on their own, I didn’t want to put them on a band album. So that was the other reason for it.”
Stringer goes on to tell that there will be another band record in the near future, something I for one am quite looking forward to, particularly after getting into “Pendulum”. “We’ve actually already been playing half of the tracks I’ll put on that album for around six months,” Stringer tells. “And we’ve got a whole lot of songs I need to finish. But at this point, I need to tour on this new record, then get back and start playing with the band again, start getting all the songs right, live, and then recording late winter, maybe spring.”
The evolution of Stringer’s musical career is an ongoing process – always simmering, always producing something, whether it be an intimate solo record or a rollicking band album. Basically, Liz Stringer is doing her own thing, her own way, and that’s why we respect her so much.
August 23, 2010
Album Review - Tides of Time
The Sunday Age, 6th June 2010
The moment Liz Stringer’s smoky blue voice rides in on the stripped-back chords of opener “Love I Found a Flood”, this album crawls under the covers and makes itself at home. Sparse, harmony-driven and strong on guitar, banjo and mandolin, “Tides of Time” is that indefinable brand of alt-something, presented with Stringer’s own wry, dark-souled storytelling. The only voice here is hers and she plays all 10-plus instruments, which makes this third album a gentler, more intimate work than 2008’s “Pendulum”. Though many of the tales are obviously borrowed, “Tides” has the raw, throaty feel of a confessional and a poetic attachment to place, from the steep hills and fencing wire of “The Road’s Inglorious End” to the hot summer streets of “City Colours”. This one’s a Keeper. Key Track “First Frost”, for its wide open spaces and love lost.
August 23, 2010
Album Review - Tides of Time
Music Australia Guide, May 2010
Melbourne’s Liz Stringer has flown under the radar for too long. Hopefully this will change things for this talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. Her voice is soulful and fiesty, her novella-like lyrics visceral, yet poetic. A true wordsmith, her rich, shadowy folk-country songs tell stories of the land (First Frost), of relationships, love, drinking and determination (Featherweight, Never Really Hit It Right). Instrumentation is kept to a minimum to allow complete immersion in Stringer’s commanding voice and compelling narratives.