The context for this debut premiere of Bounty is significant. As Scotland’s singer and songwriter Liz Jones explains: “The album was produced by myself and Jennifer Clark, starting from the basis of simple voice and acoustic guitar performances, but many musicians have later added contributions and many of the songs are richly layered. This is Jen’s album too. She’s been integral and also plays double bass and bass guitar on most songs.”
The video below of the song “Rainbows” from 18 months ago, recorded in a homespun studio, highlights the amazing talent of Jones whose emotional vulnerability is evident as she bares her soul over an early relationship. “This sugar is giving me a notion that I could be free/ I’m holding my head up high above my sliding feet/I look at friends now and see the light at the end/But the only lines left of you are about to be read.”
Liz reflected at the time: “Cast your mind to a big bad heartbreak and then cast it forward to the first day you realise you’re through it. And you’ve had a couple of whiskies or some rhubarb, the sunset is nice, and it takes you right back to fond memories. Exactly the kind of moment I wrote this: a 12-year-old song now. Can’t leave it be because I never feel I’ve quite got that ‘spot on’ version of it yet!”
Well she has now! Fast forward to her new album to hear this song “Rainbows” and all of the others with the impact of the crystal clear, professional recording, mixing and mastering process and the magnificent contributions of the stellar musicians committed to this intensely personal and innovative project.
“Accused” exemplifies this combination of raw powerful vocals with tasteful and intelligent musicianship as she cries out despairingly and with more than a hint of bitterness: “I wish I had done all those things I have been accused of!” – the mood enhanced by Jamie Hamilton’s dramatic trombone interpolations.
“Bounty” was a lead single and video for this diverse album which was premiered in an earlier edition of American Blues Scene. The song is about wishing to be rich but wanting to do something really decent and generous with the money. Liz sings with passion and integrity, “No claim to hold righteous motivation/Just to hold my head high/ Something decent, to feel redemption.” Jones’ trademark husky voice reflects the seriousness of the message but it’s tempered by the jaunty vibe, her incredible vocal chords surfing effortlessly over the mesmeric licks of guitarists Mike Park and John Bruce.
The sultry and atmospheric “Green” with its glorious background vocals, heightened sound effects and extravagant keyboard contributions is another of the many highlights on an album which propels chanteuse extraordinaire Liz into a league of her own. The gentle vibe of “Little Song” breezes along effortlessly, Liz and John’s guitar duets simply breathtaking and the chemistry between them tangible. “Mother Earth” is another classic, this time introducing Owen Nicholson’s intricate and atmospheric pedal steel guitar playing into an eclectic mix with some eastern flavours. It is a beautiful song which showcases Jones’ incredible vocal range to perfection, her powerful voice taking it to an intense climax. The balladic “Diamond” has Liz singing alongside Jamie’s sumptuous keys, the increasingly dynamic percussion adding to the suspense.
Liz co-wrote “Temple” with John Bruce, a track which via the accompanying visuals expresses the unique ambience of the beautiful Orkney Island off the northern coast of Scotland, the song and particularly the cello and Jon Mackenzie’s pedal steel conveying the tranquillity and unspoilt views.
A sad yet inspirational song, “Magnet,” highlights differences in a relationship between “the woman I will be and the woman that you need” and reflects about what might have been, Bruce and Jones replicating the conundrum in their stunning guitar work. The wind blows cold in the “Eyes Of A Liar” with Rodger Hanna’s sophisticated electric guitar playing and Suzy Cargill’s vibrant percussion. Gary Martin’s inventive harp on “Nazareth” gives a full on blues dimension to this genre-busting assemblage of original material.
The folksy “Show Me a Way” starts with a guitar introduction from Liz cleverly combining superb phrasing and intricate finger picking which you would expect from someone who keeps good company, notably veteran blues guitar virtuoso Bruce who accompanies her throughout. Jones’ classic smoky vocal tones are mellower than usual to reflect the mood of the song, her intonation and expression perfectly matching the lyrics which are poignant but not over sentimental. Suzy Cargill’s exceptional, rhythmical djembe performance, alongside Jen Clark’s nimble double bass lines, adds a further dimension to the overall sound. An appropriate and triumphant finale, the ‘wonderful and unforgettable’ “Lady Grey” is performed by an equally wonderful and unforgettable group of musicians.
Recording and Production by Jen Clark Music