Recently it was International Women's Day and we were fortunate enough to witness a gathering of some of Australia's finest women singer/songwriters assembled in an all day celebration of the occasion. These remarkable women celebrated each other's talents, marveled at their shared dedication to their craft, rejoiced and testified and the audience responded as one. They did all these things and more but most of all they rocked out, and none more so than Liz Stringer.
Liz Stringer's fine debut recording Soon showcases a mature, soulful voice and an astonishing instrumental prowess, with Stringer switching between a range of guitars, harmonica, banjo, lap steel, and charango. Reflecting on the recording experience, Stringer muses about the temptation to embellish and overly polish her work. She says, "The recording process was interesting, so different to playing live, where it's instant gratification. Live, you have what you have, your instruments and your voice, and that's it. With recording you could go on forever adding things, which is not what I set out to do, but there was a temptation to get stupid about putting tons of instruments on there."
What Soon has in tons is integrity; it's replete with powerfully performed songs of raw emotion, mostly melancholy but wry observations about love, break-ups, and breakdowns. The album has a full warm sound that beautifully complements Stringer's deep, resonant vocal delivery, sometimes resembling Susan Tedeschi, other times Eliza Gilkyson, but in a lower range.
"One More Time" is a Texas style blues shuffle, sweetened by lap steel fills and runs, over which Stringer's gospel-tinged vocal sails with effortless power.
"The Devil And My Daughter" is the emotional centerpiece of the album. Its hoarse, near-spoken narrative is surrounded by swirling acoustic guitars, punctuated by incisive banjo picking. It's a cautionary tale told by a woman regretting that "when the devil came by disguised as love" she "let him in." The prospect of her mistake being repeated by her daughter prompts the eerie admonition, "draw your curtain."
Laconic snare hits introduce the gorgeous "That's All I Can Do," a sweetly swaying tale of loss and regret that is at once achingly sad but at the same time curiously uplifting.
On Soon, Stringer's prodigious instrumental skills are supported by longtime cohort Adam May on drums, augmented by Harry Williamson utilizing "any percussion instrument we could find at his house." Further contributions come from bassists Nick Carver and brother Tom Stringer, and Jordie Lane on electric guitars.
If Soon is a harbinger of things to come from Liz Stringer, then batten down the hatches, there's a storm a comin'.