fri 19/07/2024

Album: Lizzie No - Halfsies | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Lizzie No - Halfsies

Album: Lizzie No - Halfsies

Say yes to No, a talent to watch

Delicate yet powerful

With this her third album, Bronx-born-singer-songwriter Lizzie No promises “an apocalyptic journey from exile to liberation” – a bold promise. Halfsies is certainly an album of musical contrasts: on the one hand the freneticism of “Getaway Car” or “Lagunitas”, on the other the gentle, delicate beauty of “Mourning Dove Waltz” or “The Heartbreak Store”.

From folk to rock and back again, this is a beguiling album that’s tough and tender and full of sly humour. Listening to it, you can see why the audience at last year’s Celtic Connections was won over.

No grew up singing in the church choir and playing the concert harp. Then she discovered Bob Dylan, as everyone inevitably does – though they don’t generally arrange his songs for harp. Not the sort with strings. Those facts alone give a big clue as to eclecticism of No, whose music blends the influence of folk, blues and country into her own version of “Americana”, that now-ubiquitous portmanteau genre that always seems to be a cop-out. But like Rhiannon Giddens, No – who mentions bluegrass, Minnie Riperton and Ravel in just once sentence of her notes – doesn’t fit neatly anywhere and probably doesn’t care to. “Genre” is at heart a marketing concept and therefore reductive.

Halfsies is my first encounter with No, and it leaves me wanting to explore her first two albums, Hard Won (2017) and Vanity (2019), and looking forward to her next. No, who plays acoustic guitar and harp throughout, is joined by the Attacca Quartet, a classical and new music combo out of the Juilliard, and Allison Russell, the much-garlanded Canadian singer-songwriter and activist. Folk music – in its broadest sense, denoting a singer-songwriter with a guitar – has for too long been a predominantly white field of endeavour. There have been exceptions – the great Odetta in the 1960s, and Tracy Chapman, whose influence can be felt here, had quite a moment in the 1980s – but only in the last few years have black voices made a real impact.

No joins a growing band of remarkable black women who have made their presence felt at Newport and beyond and this multi-textured album gives up more of its secrets with each listening. The tracks have been perfectly sequenced but in these days of pick ‘n’ mix streaming the Halfsies’ overall shape and balance, the musical and lyrical light and shade, is always likely to be lost.

Among the ear-catching cuts “Sleeping in the Next Room” opens with a cappella vocals, No harmonised by Kate Victor and Sadie Dupuis. “The Heartbreak Store” is redolent of Dolly Parton. As for “Mourning Dove Waltz”, it’s a perfect miniature, an uplifting story of urban beauty from lockdown with echoey piano and dreamy strings plus Russell’s vocals.

No – who mentions bluegrass, Minnie Riperton and Ravel in just once sentence of her notes – doesn’t fit neatly anywhere and probably doesn’t care to

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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