Lizzie No grew up singing in her church choir before discovering Dylan and learning to play his songs on the harp. Her debut album Hard Won takes these musical influences and combines them with a poetic lyricism that impresses throughout.
The opening track Crying Wolf introduces us to Lizzie’s unfussy singing style and simple use of guitar – such clarity and directness immediatley invites the listener in. The Mountineer adds the harp to the mix and creates a lovely lilting sound. This is a singer whose feet are planted firmly on the ground. She’s down to earth, reflected in these songs and yet you feel she does have ambition and potential to scale the heights if she wants to. Please Don’t Change Your Mind and Monuments convey a real sense of tender vulnerability. Here there’s uncertainty about her relationships and the music helps to underscore these feelings.
Centralia is the star of this record, a beautiful indie folk number where you can really hear the Dylan influence. I love the line Things that scared us half to death, they can’t hurt us now. There’s a great vid on YouTube of her singing this in the park. You can’t help but think that the jogger who goes by should have stopped and listened as he would have witnessed something really special.
Another standout is Killing Season, a powerful response to the horrific events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement. This is what the best folk singers do – put their anger in a song and send it out there for others to hear. It’s quietly chilling. You were one of the pure of heart but it didn’t help you none. There’s no telling our shapes apart when the killing season comes. There is such a feeling of resignation about the whole situation and that just makes the song even more devastating.
At times you feel like the sound and production of the album could be a little meatier but a real singular voice emerges across these songs. Maybe Lizzie No is not the finished product just yet but her life experiences have been hard won, and that’s exactly what you need to be a folk singer. She’s a raw talent and hopefully this is just the beginning of her story.