Lizzie Weber's Debut Album Suggests Good Things from a Young Songwriter
Lizzie Weber has a fine, guileless voice and a soft touch on the piano. She feels things deeply but considers life's tough lessons evenly. On her self-titled debut, Weber chooses to wrap these skills in a series of ballads -- so, so many ballads. She works her songs into a lull throughout the album's first few tracks -- slow, unshowy movements on the piano lay the foundation on many songs, a gently plucked guitar on the rest.
Weber shows none of the flash or drama that we've come to expect from the narrow confines of the girl-and-piano sub-genre, and mostly that's a good thing -- it suits the songs. Bare emotion is cheap but passion is rare, and Weber shows flashes of the latter at times. But too little movement across too many tracks makes it hard for the listener to feel the songs' import time after time when many run together. There's a heaviness here, much of it vaguely described in impressionistic lyrics that give the outline of a story.
The production follows Weber's lead. It's sympathetic to the songs and tasteful without getting in the way. The swooping violin matches a steel-guitar line on the intro to "Safe Distance"; those touches flesh things out but these often spare, open songs call for a little more than a sprinkling of strings. "Sorry Days" serves as a stylistic curveball, with its raga-ish rhythm and slinky upright bass suggesting some Eastern exoticism, and "Catastrophe" is an early standout thanks to a much-needed boost in tempo and the double-tracked saxophone intro compliments of engineer Brian Ryback. Stick with the album for moments such as these, and to hear what Weber and company can do with the ballad form when they maximize her voice and the supporting instruments.
"Trail Ridge Road" starts like so many of the other songs here, but its gradual crescendo is mirrored in the strings' intensity and, significantly, one of the few moments where Weber truly lets go and submits to the song. Moments like these suggest good and daring things from the young songwriter, even if her debut plays it safe a little too often.
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