Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Liz Jones - Bounty

You could be forgiven for thinking, when the title track ‘Bounty’ kicks off this solo album by Liz Jones, that it doesn’t sound so very different from the two albums she has made with her band, Broken Windows.  Here’s a warm and inviting tune, with Jones’ distinctive, engaging voice to the fore, backed by quietly insistent acoustic guitar, gentle piano and a clip-clopping rhythm, enlivened here and there by a trilling, trippy guitar line, and ultimately a pin-sharp solo from Windows guitarist John Bruce.
Liz Jones - lady sings the roots
As subtle as this sound may be though, for the most part Bounty tones things down even further, initially capturing the songs with just Jones’ voice and acoustic guitar.  She and producer Jennifer Clark then elicited contributions from a gaggle of other musicians to provide additional textures according to their own lights.  And if that sounds like a risky kind of “lucky dip” approach, the results are both coherent and delicate.
Most importantly though, Liz Jones’ alluring voice is front and centre throughout.  Here we have a roots singer with bags of range and variation in tone, who can be as sensitive, relaxed or powerful as her songs demand.  Indeed several songs on Bounty feature Jones harmonising with herself to exquisite effect.  Overdubs curl around her lead vocal like smoke rings on the meditative, swaying ‘Green’, to which Jamie Hamilton adds some richly soulful organ embellishment.  ‘Temple’ is even more startling on this front, the harmonies starting simple, then growing into delicious spirals.
Characterising the styles of these songs isn’t straightforward.  Given that London-born Jones sings in her own accent, without recourse to Americanisms, I’m loath to use a term like Americana.  But ‘Little Song’ carries some echoes of Geraint Watkins, the Welshman who has collaborated with Nick Lowe among others and who sometimes attracts the Americana tag.  Meanwhile ‘Mother Earth’ has an ethereal aspect that takes me back to (very) early Joan Armatrading, with understated shadings of pedal steel as Jones offers the typically evocative image “What have I tasted so sour on my tongue?”  ‘Temple’ puts me in mind of Deacon Blue in downbeat mode, like ‘Bethlehem’s Gate’ perhaps, sweetly delivered in antithesis to acerbic lines like “Our body is a temple until Friday night”, and with starlit pedal/lap steel decoration from Jon Mackenzie. And the sombre ‘Magnet’, with its prickling guitar, reflects on the attracting and repelling poles of relationships in a manner suggestive of the darker moments Justin Currie brought to Del Amitri.
Thirteen tracks is possibly too many, though I’m not complaining – this is an album to lay back and wallow in.  But there are some other favourites along the way.  ‘Accused’ starts with another patient, throbbing rhythm and ticking guitar, and then Jamie Hamilton weighs in with trombone to add more heft and depth as Jones’ vocal gathers more force for the pay-off: “I should have done all those things you accused me of, honey I’d have had way more fun”.  ‘Show Me The Way’ rolls along on an easygoing, pattering rhythm from Suzi Cargill’s djemba, providing an upbeat soundtrack for a tribute to someone who rolls with the punches, with more harmonies that this time culminate in a soaring choral effect.
Bounty is a sophisticated album, with producer Jen Clarke and the cast of collaborators finding just the right degree of elaboration to bring out the quality of the material, and burnishes Liz Jones’ credentials as both a songwriter and a singer.  I know it ain’t rock’n’roll, but I still like it.
Bounty is released on 18 November, and can be ordered here.

No comments:

Post a Comment