Liz Green O, Devotion! Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Her debut’s been a long time coming, but these 10 tracks have been worth the wait.

Luke Slater 2011

You might have expected north-western retro-folk singer Liz Green to have released at least one album by now. It was five years ago that she triumphed in Glastonbury Festival's emerging talent competition: its prize, a slot on the Pyramid Stage. Yet her career path has been a slow and steady one, and it is only now that she releases her debut full-length.  

O, Devotion! is a product of London's Toe Rag Studios – famous for its analogue equipment and for having birthed The White Stripes’ Elephant, notably – and the production fits Green’s music well. Hers is a very English take on a style frequently redolent of pre-war American folk music. Dated though it may seem, you will not find any simple and crude facsimiles here.

Green emits a pained persona on almost every track, and even when the music takes a turn for the upbeat, she maintains a dark tone alongside dashes of black humour. Her delivery is smooth and mournful throughout; she laments magnificently where others might merely sing of passing woes. There are some old favourites amongst these tracks, like Bad Medicine, a mainstay for some years now; but Green presents much newly-penned material, too. The addition of a brass section beefs up certain songs, like the jaunty Midnight Blues, whilst absolutely making others, like the wandering, mercurial and waltzing Displacement Song. 

The beauty of O, Devotion! is to be found in its simplicity. It would have been easy for there to be overbearing orchestrations; but the main focus has to be, and indeed is, the bare bones of each composition – carefully thought-out and expertly told lyrics backed by an acoustic guitar, wielded with incredible prowess and variety. The most stripped-back it gets is during the morbid closer Gallows, which opens with the lines "Come back to the wagon, this horse and this cart / They'll take you to the gallows at nine o'clock sharp". It's a slow, morose culmination of the album's previous works, hanging heavily on the heart as the end draws in.

Liz Green has been biding her time, but although the wait for O, Devotion! has been long, there can be no doubt that it has been worth it. Its careful arrangements, coupled with Green's unusual but deliberate vocal style and ear for a story, comprise a lasting testament to her talent.

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