Liz is a singer first and foremost, yet she is also a multi-talented entertainer. She lit up the small space at Mugzee's with her sometimes wicked / sometimes mischievous smile, her constant motion on stage, and her high power, Chicago-style blues. Liz started her first set with an energetic, hip-shaking performance on "I Want You," playing tambourine as she sang. Liz raised the room temperature with her sultry singing on her original "I'm So Blue ('Cause Both My Men Are Gone)." She followed that up with her humorous, over-the-top, getting-even title song from her last CD, "Just Getting Ready to Cheat," (Earwig Music Company, 1999).
Liz displayed a strong, soulful voice that can climb several octaves. While she can soar high or growl low and gritty, she seems most comfortable in her sultry, lower ranges, which her band neatly complemented. All the while she keeps moving to the beat, dancing and hip-shaking her way through each number. As an instrumentalist, Liz is a solid player on acoustic and electric guitar. More recently she added the rub board to her talents, adding a little Cajun spice. Liz performs with a healthy joy for life, wicked humor, and total disregard for political correctness. As she told the crowd, "I sing about politics. Sexual politics."
Liz demonstrated her great vocal range on her original, "Look at Me, Look at Me," from her first CD of the same name, (Earwig, 1996). She received a Grammy nomination for this CD in 1996. Liz wrote all of the songs and arrangements for her two CD's. Liz said the first CD was 11 hours in the making from the initial recordings to the final mix. A prolific songwriter, Liz says she has written hundreds of songs and choosing which ones to record for her second CD was a real challenge. She solved this by having a listening party at Café Boost, where she played and sang 40 or so songs while her friends and fellow musicians in attendance gave their suggestions over coffee and dessert.
When asked about her past, Liz said "Nothing matters before 1979 when I walked into a Chicago bar and heard Willie Kent and The Gents playing, and knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life." Liz spent the next 20 years perfecting her skills by performing in bands such as The Supernaturals, performing regularly with the Aron Burton Blues Band, eventually forming her own band and performing four straight years in the 90's at the Chicago Blues Festival. She said Billy Branch was a big inspiration to her because he respected her as an instrumentalist. And trading licks with him at club jams taught her a great deal. She also cited Jimmy Vaughn and The Fabulous Thunderbirds, 1980's version, who "played blues the way it should be played." Michael Dotson and Sons of Blues (Carl Weathersby and Billy Branch) also helped shape her music.
Liz accompanied herself on acoustic guitar on her song "Reefer Woman" from her first CD and "Gone Away, Problem Solved" from her second. Her strong, expressive voice filled the room as she shook and danced on stage. Next she switched to her electric Fender for "Walking on Eggshells" and "Friendly Stranger," both originals. All of Liz's songs seem to connect to real people, their loves, losses, joys and sorrows. Liz said "Walking on Eggshells" deals with the challenges a friend faced in a long, abusive relationship.
Liz's current band consists of Mike Gibb on lead guitar, Dave Gaye on bass, and Eric Behrenfeld on drums. All are experienced players who can play "low-down" the way Liz likes. Mike is a strong player, capable of playing wicked slide, keeping his band mates on their toes his adventurous chord progressions and sudden changes. Dave has been with her the longest, providing that low-down bass beat she likes. Mike on drums is the newest member, yet a solid player in his own right.
Liz started her final, short set with Louis Jordan's "Let the Good Times Roll." While she definitely had the crowd heated up before, this put an exclamation point on the evening. The temperature rose even higher as the crowd shouted along to the chorus. If California could hook up to Liz, there wouldn't be any power shortage! Liz's music transmits a positive, emotional power that leaves pumped-up and ready to take life head-on. (Liz also appeared at the Triangle Bar in Vadnais Heights on May 11.)
This review is copyright © 2001 by Richard Benson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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