Monday, February 21, 2022

Liz Jones & Broken Windows - Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, 19 February 2022

The Assembly Roxy, a converted church that’s the venue for this one hour show as part of the Scottish Blues Weekend, is very pretty.  Gotta say though, set up as it is just now with rows of socially distanced chairs, it feels a bit sedate.  Needs must in these still tricky times, of course, but I look forward to a more relaxed musical environment becoming more feasible moving forward.
The sound is good though, which means that Liz Jones & Broken Windows are able to put over this genre-hopping set, drawing primarily on last year’s Bricks & Martyrs album, with both warmth and clarity.
They get the ball rolling with the gutsy ‘Call Centre Blues’, all fuzzy chords and steady beat, the
Liz Jones & Broken Windows - get hip to the genre-hopping!
Pic by Stuart Stott
“blues” referring not to the musical form so much as the experiences that inform the lyric.  Then they dial it down into a jazzier mode with ‘Jo’, which rests on a bass line from Rod Kennard that evokes Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’.  Jones delivers an expressive vocal over the mellow groove, with Jamie Hamilton’s sweet keyboards offset by a salty slide guitar solo from John Bruce.
‘Wendy’ and ‘Angel’ both bring more muscle to the table.  ‘Wendy’ is an intriguing tale of an acquaintance who suddenly dropped out of view, relayed in bright fashion with funky guitar frills, with a biting solo to close.  ‘Angel’ is simply a great uptempo love song, a slice of happy-go-lucky pop that brings to mind Katrina & The Waves.
‘Lover’ then cools things off, opening with no more than mandolin strumming from Suzy Cargill and sparse guitar counterpoint from Bruce on guitar, while Jones delivers an elegiac vocal.  The rest of the band then come in, including Jones’ own acoustic guitar, to swell the sound and elevate the tune with some gorgeous harmonies.  It’s a highlight that the quirky slow shuffle of ‘Karma’ can’t quite match, notwithstanding its dark humour and the eerie flutters emanating from Bruce’s whammy bar.
They get all Latino on ‘Stain’, with Cargill variously using bongos and a triangle to speed up the swinging rhythm laid down by drummer Gary Davidson, while Jones bends her voice into husky mode.  Hamilton gets to work on a jazzy piano solo, and Bruce this time offers up some brittle Hispanic-sounding guitar to fit the vibe.
Turning to their eponymous debut album, they’re able to explore yet another avenue with the trippingly romantic ‘No Classic Love Song’, which probably has gypsy jazz somewhere in its genes, Hamilton coaxing accordion sounds out of his keys while in my head I can still hear the clarinet that floated through the album version.  ‘Strum’ starts off languid, Jones singing the insistent chorus in breathy fashion before it changes gear and becomes a rather more urgent affair.
Jones introduces a new song with the working title ‘Jesus’, exploring another musical facet as Bruce matches some warped, Sixties-sounding guitar lines to Jones’ tale of “Jesus down in Mexico getting high’, en route to a swirling, psychedelic ending.  Then they close with a cover of a Sippie Wallace tune, ‘Women Be Wise’ – a witty, rinky-dink little blues to finish with a smile.
All the material may fall under the umbrella of what I call roots rock, but they certainly manage to cover multiple different bases along the way.  I’m not sure where Liz Jones, as the principal songwriter, draws her influences from, though I imagine she’s acquainted with some artists with whom I’m far less familiar.  Regardless, she and Broken Windows get extra credit for bringing her songs to life with such a broad palette of arrangements.  Next time I see them I hope they have the time to roll out some more of the winners from their two albums – and, in a less stately setting perhaps, their carefree cover of the Faces’ ‘Ooh La La’ too!

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