Liz Durrett | Outside Our Gates (Warm)

cd_liz-durrett.jpgHer songwriting is drenched with an exclusive brand of symbolism.







Liz Durrett’s entry into the music scene has occurred in an era of raspy-voiced adult contemporary wonders and hypo-sensitive, sedate indie femmes. With Athens, Ga., as her artistic home base and Vic Chesnutt as a mentoring uncle, Durrett leans toward the latter stereotype, but manages to pull away from the crowd. She’s been compared to the likes of Cat Power, bringing forth an airy husk-hush voice accompanied by echoes and a love for dramatic minor keys. Word blurs into word, oftentimes incomprehensive yet still intriguing. Her songwriting is drenched with an exclusive brand of symbolism, forging complex images that may take a little time, soul searching or a convenient new life experience to grasp.

Outside Our Gates is Durrett’s third album in three years, following 2006’s The Mezzanine. Instead of bare-bones acoustics, her upcoming release presents electric-feedback, bluesy flashes and diverse additions from 13 fellow Athens musicians. Contributors include Brian Causey (Man or Astro-Man?), Amanda Kapousouz (Tin Cup Prophette) and the members of Ham1. Producer Eric Bachman (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers) mans string arrangements that bring forth a majestic earthiness. Unexpected horn, trumpet and xylophone cameos uniquely round out the sound.

The opening track, "Wake to Believe," is a good grabber. Anxiety and excessive internalization ("Mind, mind let me go/ your prison is all I know") is accentuated by elegant, powerful and Southern-inspired cello and violin. The stringy South carries over into "Always Signs," with the inclusion of funky xylophone action amidst lyrics detailing not-so-seamless inner suppression. "In the Eaves" features a random, sadly optimistic and cluttered mariachi sound (brass and percussion) appropriately following, "Blacker than the blackest blue these arms/ these arms have ever seen."

"Not Running" is quite possibly the album’s most moving track. Durrett seems to hit her most impassioned point, conjuring a soulful and bluesy side that is consciously quelled. She slowly and forcefully emphasizes each word in the refrain, proclaiming that a daydream-filled, thoughtful existence is not reclusive or flighty; it merely lacks fear, routine and conformity.

The closing lullaby track, "Sea of Dreams," paints a sleepy watercolor world with echoes, hums and fluid repetition. Fuzzy visions of a 1993 Mazzy Star may appear to some. The song is also featured on the France-based Blog Up Musique’s lullaby compilation,"Have a Good Night #3."

Durrett’s current style probably won’t lead her to overrated mainstream fame; strangely enough, though, seeing her name someday on a major motion picture soundtrack seems feasible. In the meantime, indie and folk listeners willing to single out Durrett from the overpopulation of unipolar waifs glued to acoustic guitars will be greeted by a variety of moods, instrumental arrangements and puzzle-piece lyrics. A- | Lauren Beckerle

RIYL: Cat Power, Vic Chesnutt

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