Keeping Up With Liz Jones’ Latest Album, ‘Live At The Voodoo Rooms’

It usually takes much longer than 24 hours to become an “overnight sensation”. Liz Jones will probably settle for the past dozen years of hard graft, sweat, and tears to achieve her current status as a highly respected musician across Scotland and beyond the borders. A change of career saw Liz move from London to Edinburgh, and making her first demo studio EP recording in 2012. It was 2018 when this reviewer first heard Liz on a compilation CD of the best of Scotland’s burgeoning blues talent, Jock’s Juke Joint Volume 4. It was an impressive performance, summarized as follows: 

It is appropriate that a capital performance is delivered by Edinburgh based Liz Jones & Broken Windows with the beautiful, atmospheric rendition of her epic ballad, “Broken Windows.” (This song from her 2017 debut album, The Songs Of Liz Jones, had subsequently become the name of the band.) The classy Liz Jones’ vocal clarity, jazz-infused delivery and sincerity steal the show and point the way to a great future.’ 

Six years later it is Jones’ phenomenal Live At The Voodoo Rooms LP with her band which confirms her rapid progress towards that predicted future success. In between, a major highlight of the Scottish blues calendar has been Liz Jones’ moving and respectful tribute to the late Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. One critic wrote of her performance: ‘Liz Jones is renowned for her deep, soulful yet honey-tinged vox and impressive vocal range but she added shrapnel to her repertoire with this explosive set.’ Her appearances with Broken Windows at the international Edinburgh Festival Fringe have also gained five star reviews.

It is fitting that the live album opens with a blues blast from the past, “No Classic Love Song,” a favorite from the band’s early shows with a raw sound and funky, honky-tonk piano authenticity – pure bliss! “Narcissist” is when listeners start asking the question, “Where does this amazing voice come from?” Liz is renowned for her powerful, gravelly voice and commanding stage presence. Her electrifying performances and emotionally charged delivery leave a lasting impact as she shares a deep love and respect for the blues, using her personal experiences to connect with the audience.

It takes a highly talented singer and exceptional guitar playing to nail a song by one of America’s all-time greats JB Lenoir and to make it their own, but Jones and John Bruce do just that on “The Whale.”

Liz brings her sultry, smoky vocals to the forefront, painting a vivid picture of a man lost and struggling to find his way back to the surface: “They say the Whale swallowed Jonah/ Out in the deep blue sea/ Sometimes I get that feeling/That same old Whale has swallowed me.” Suzy Cargill’s brilliant percussion and Jamie Hamilton’s innovative keys add a further dimension. The tenderness of “Lover” highlights the breadth and versatility of vocal range deployed by Liz depending on the emotions of this classic and moving love song. 

“Jo” is a slow blues sung in conversational style, this time with a haunting guitar duet including intricate strings and sensational slide from John plus empathetic keys, all arranged impeccably. Another song from the back catalogue, “Strum,” does exactly what the title says thanks to the excellent rhythm section of bassist Rod Kennard and drummer Gary Davidson.

Liz tells the story of “Bala Man”:

On my way home from a south coast family gathering, a man boarded the train at Bristol, he was from Bala, Wales. He told me about his home from home, Arbroath, Scotland where his partner lived. He was tied to Wales with family responsibilities, but had traveled up to Arbroath for long weekends as often as possible for over a dozen years. He said it was his ‘borrowed home,’ which resonated with me, being in Edinburgh. We were both going ‘home’, him for his break, me after mine.

Liz sings with her trademark intensity as the story unfolds in the captivating chorus, ‘Speeding winter steel/Northern we roll/I am a drifter/Young dove, old crow’.

“Before Me” with its reflective, nostalgic vibe, country feel and incisive lyrics is a song from Liz’s first demo EP back in the day, her heartache expressed in the realization that, “It seems these days you no longer adore me.”

When you call your own friends

Who you don’t trust, and you can’t tell

Do they give you 

Give you more than me?

It seems these days you do anything to ignore me. 

“Call Center Blues,” co-written by Jones and Bruce from the critically acclaimed LP Bricks & Martyrs, sums up the reality of an accomplished musician juggling music ambitions with regular employment and working all hours to earn a living. The monotony of the job plus the intense pressure to achieve in a high sales environment are replicated perfectly by Jones’ husky vocals and mesmeric repetition of, “I just need a minute of your time/Just your thoughts over the line.” Nuisance calls for those on the receiving end and a mindnumbing script for the call center operator, this song has the blues at its core and is even more soulful and bluesy than the original studio recording.

Credit: Stuart Stott

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a phrase originating from the eponymous comic strip created by Arthur R. ‘Pop’ Momand in 1913 which ran until 1940 in The New York World depicting a social climbing family who struggle to keep up with their eminent neighbors. Keeping up with the imperious Liz Jones in the best musical shape of her life could be equally challenging.

Recorded by Tom Kemp; Mixed and Mastered by Jennifer Clark

Liz Jones & Broken Windows

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