Taken as a collection, Liejacker sounds like a Mary Chapin Carpenter album circa 1996.
Chris Long 2008
It is difficult to know what to make of Thea Gilmore. If you believe the music press, she is 'the best British singer-songwriter of the last ten years' and 'the best wordsmith of her generation', yet on listening to her recent musical output, neither of those slices of hyperbole stand up to scrutiny. Harpo's Ghost, her previous album, garnered critical praise across the board, something that would have made anyone listening to the distinctly average collection somewhat confused. Liejacker, it seems, will do exactly the same.
Things do start well. The album opens with a duet, a collaboration with The Zutons' Dave McCabe called Old Soul, which not only showcases Gilmore's considerable vocal talents but also reveals a hidden depth and tenderness to McCabe that he’d do well to take back to the next Zutons album.
From there though, proceedings go quickly downhill, with even the impressive list of guests being unable to stop the decline.
Virginia-born folk-rocker Erin McKeown turns up on Dance In New York, a seven-minute exercise in dreariness that could easily lose four minutes and be unharmed, while even a double whammy of folk legend Joan Baez and The Waterboys' Steve Wickham aren't enough to drag the closing The Lower Road out of the mundane mire.
Thea's problem is twofold. First, as with all her releases since her breakthrough opus, Avalanche, the songs are over-produced, giving them a shine and polish that simply doesn't fit with the emotion and tenderness she is trying to convey.
The second is that since Avalanche, her songwriting has been losing its energy and passion, as if she has a slow puncture in her soul. The result is that she'll settle for nonsense like the tedious Rosie or the frankly dismal Icarus Wind, where she was once filled with fires like Heads Will Roll or Juliet.
Taken as a collection, Liejacker sounds like a Mary Chapin Carpenter album circa 1996, which was no bad thing back then, but as a much-celebrated singer-songwriter in 2008, it's bemusingly weak to say the least. Still, that's probably not what her music press fan club will say.