Brasher, Liz - Painted Image - New LP
Stunning release of soul music, clearly aware of the past (Stax for example) yet no museum piece, Brasher delivers a collection of gems that your grandmother, your daughter and your brother are all bound to love.
North Carolina sends us another gift, this one called Liz Brasher. - Winch
"Liz Brasher found her voice while singing in the choir of her all-Spanish church in North Carolina. After relocating to Memphis with a new appreciation for the South and its rich musical history, Brasher tapped into the city's creative scene to mold something of her own.
It's easy to hear Memphis' retro-soul influences threaded throughout Painted Image, which was recorded in the city's historic Ardent, Royal and Electraphonic Recording studios. The pulse of a golden era when Stax and Sun Records were cutting hit after hit beats loudly throughout the record, but Painted Image is far from a resurrection of a bygone era. Brasher's use of sharp and poetic storytelling, often punctuated by biblical imagery, brings an engaging and uniquely modern perspective. It builds impressively on Brasher's 2018 EP Outcast.
"The fiery, unapologetic "Blood of the Lamb" kicks off with a triumphant horn section, rumbling organ and rolling electric guitar as Brasher speaks her truth: "I am dressed in black / I walk in white," she sings. "Thoughts unclean / I speak of light / Who are you to tell me who I am?"
"Backed by an expertly arranged string section, "Cold Baby" showcases Brasher's innate ability to project a complicated mix of human emotions onto a shimmering and complex vocal performance. She dives into overwhelming love and devotion in the blissful "Air," while the groove-driven "Body of Mine" explores themes of mortality while embracing the unknown. The record closes with Painted Image's simmering title track, which picks through the ashes of a dying relationship. Even at her most uplifting, Brasher isn't afraid to explore and accept life's darker moments.
"All of these elements come together in Brasher's ardent, echoing vocals, as she thoughtfully dissects an array of sounds and styles, from fierce rock and roll to melodic gospel devotionals. At every turn, Painted Image finds beauty in the fragility and conflict inherent to the human condition." - Lorie Liebig
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Soul music, especially of the classic variety, can roughly be divided into Northern and Southern styles. It may be a simplistic and not entirely scientific distinction but the smoother, more commercial music of Motown and Chicago is contrasted against the tougher, grittier, rawer approach of Southern soul emerging from the Stax and Hi labels and others.
It won’t take long to slot Liz Brasher’s impressive debut in the latter category, especially because she records for the bluesy Fat Possum imprint. It’s little surprise that Brasher has spent most of her life in the South, born and raised in North Carolina, now calling Memphis home. The singer-songwriter released a well-received six track EP in 2018 that helped land her opening slots with diverse acts including the Psychedelic Furs and The Zombies. Two tunes from that harder-rocking introduction are repeated here, along with nine new compositions that find Brasher moving in a darker yet more soulful direction.
"Opener “Blood Of The Lamb” sets up a sparse guitar lick counterpointed by crisp horns in a spiritually based swamp burner with Brasher’s husky voice leading the charge. Members of Memphis’ retro-leaning Bo-Keys with veteran keyboardist Al Gamble lay down the limber grooves as Brasher unleashes her sensual, supple voice, splitting the difference between Dusty In Memphis-styled pop (“Every Day”), upbeat Sam & Dave-influenced gospel laced R&B (“Living Water”), and Steely Dan-ish jazz/pop, some with religious overtones (“Hand To The Plow”).
"Nothing breaks four minutes which keeps the music short, tight and forceful without extended solos to distract from Brasher’s bellowing, throaty voice. When she hits a slow Otis Redding ballad vibe on “Cold Baby,” aided by a five-piece string section, and sings, “My flesh has been aching/ My world has been shaking” to a lover “with a “heart made of stone” that she knows is no good for her, the effect is galvanizing. She’s determined to cement a relationship on “Heaven & Earth” (“Let’s rock this/ Let’s roll/ You know I’d follow anywhere you go”), singing with the intensity and determination of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Scott Bomar’s distorted guitar provides the basic riff for “Body Of Mine,” a tight slab of funked-up soul as Brasher sings, “One day I’m gonna be somebody/ Walk into the light” with forceful fortitude.
"It’s still early in 2019, but with the striking, often churchy Painted Image, the half-Dominican/half-Italian southerner Liz Brasher sketches a claim as a breakout Americana soul-singer with crossover potential." - Hal Horowitz