By Richard Marcus
London-born, Scotland-based singer/songwriter Liz Jones released her second album, Bounty, toward the end of 2022. While not exactly a traditional country music release, the album definitely falls into the Americana category. Even with its forays into R&B and Soul, the album still has just as many echoes of Nashville as it does anything else.
The record kicks off with the album’s title song— a rollicking country blues tune that immediately makes you sit up and notice Jones’s distinct vocalizing and the unusual flexibility in her pipes.She switches from the power of blues singing to something quite a bit more sultry for the second track, “Green.” Here, the music remains bluesy, but more likened to blues you’d hear in an after-hours bar where the lights are low and cigarette smoke has created a fog over the lights. The music doesn’t really play, it oozes down from the stage into an audience’s lap.
Jones’s voice on “Green” has a languid, feline quality to it, easing its way through the music with seemingly no effort. Intensity kicks up at the halfway mark: a keyboard enters (maybe an old Hammond organ?), and as her voice increases in volume, Jones is able to build on the emotional content of the song. Moving from sultry to near-gospel in a matter of minutes could sound abrupt and forced, but Jones and her band manage the feat without a mishap—lyrics, music, and voice move along an emotional ladder in such perfect lockstep, listeners are carried along with ease. In fact, when the keyboard kicks in and the vocals crescendo, it’s enough to send shivers up and down your spine.
Jones is one of those rare performers who isn’t limited to one style of music or singing. She’s equally at home accompanying herself on guitar as she is with a full band, and just as powerful in either setting. “Rainbows,” an ode to a past love, is a perfect example of her ability to do more with less. Her wonderfully expressive voice recounts the good and the bad, the bitter and the sweet. “On a night like this/the memory of your kiss/sends the sky itself into a colored whirl”. Fond memories are offset by images of an acrimonious break-up, as she mentions not quite remembering the hateful things that were said. The wistfulness in her voice implies that she’s moved beyond the drama and is now simply feeling the ache of loss.
The songwriting on Bounty also displays a rather sardonic sense of humor. On “Temple,” Jones compares how humans say things like ‘the body is a temple’—except, of course, on Friday nights when we go to the clubs. She then takes aim at the way we treat the earth we live on… another temple we seem intent on burning down. “We walk on this world like it carries no weight/We smoke and we spend and we burn and we fight/but we all agree we’re all going to try/This world is our temple/…Our body is our temple until Friday night.” It’s biting, but not without a sly grin, not to mention a keen observation… and one that doesn’t get called out often enough in a world where everyone is so easily offended: humanity is only as committed to making things better as long as it doesn’t interfere with our indulgences.
From the R&B brilliance of “Accused” to the soft intimacy of “Nazareth,” Jones shows off a vocal range (and an ability to properly apply it) that many singer-songwriters reach for but don’t achieve. Bounty is both powerful and versatile – what more could we want?
Richard Marcus has been writing about music, films, and books since 2005. He’s published three books commissioned by Ulysses Press. He currently edits the Books section at Blogcritics.org and is a regular contributor to Qantara.de. He lives in Kingston, Ontario Canada with his feral accomplice and their cat.