Friday, 30 December 2016

LIZA MULHOLLAND

CD Review

Fine 'n' Rosy


There seems no end to Liza Mulholland's talent, she is a multi-instrumentalist, composes, teaches, writes, creates radio and television programmes, runs her own production company and thankfully she has brought all those talents into her debut solo album.

Liza Mulholland
The Inverness musician has one of the softest voices around which almost forces you to strain your ears, and if you are of a certain age and her singing sounds familiar, it may be because she sounds remarkably like Nena who had a big hit in the mids 1980s with 99 Red Balloons.
Strangely enough just as Nena's light song contained metaphors for war games, military paranoia and impending destruction, so Mulholland's songs tackle some pretty strong themes such as the opening track Took My Breath Away about abusive relationships.
It's an uncomplicated ballad and superficially sounds very light but with lyrics such as "If I can't have you no one will, is all that you can say. A flash of steel was all it took to take my breath away."
 It's quite a disturbing juxtaposition when you enjoy the lightness of the tune then realise the relationship ends in death.
The title track which follows is of a less dark subject but nonetheless insightful where once again you are almost forced to listen to her breathy, whispery singing which can be so restful.
Her musings on gardens as a metaphor for life is kept very simple with just the guitar and the undertone of the accordion which is then fleshed out by some ethereal vocal harmonies.
Cadal Sàmhach is beautiful and very personal tune from Mulholland about the joy and love she feels for her son especially when watching him sleep.
Her subtle use of the accordion and sparse singing makes this a very restful piece almost a lullaby which could have been designed to put her son in the state she enjoys watching him so much. Mulholland continues with the instrumental for her Kiloran Jig Set of two jigs, The Holm Burn Jig and Kiloran Jig, which are inspired by her native Scotland.
Like her singing the tunes are soft and almost like slip jigs but keep the toe tapping rhythm as lively as it should be.
 At times Mulholland opens her life and heart in this album and On The Road is one such track which was composed from a very dark time in her life and perhaps the creation of this tune was both cathartic and instrumental in rebooting her ability to make music.
Once again the depth of feeling and meaning in this song belies the softness of her tone which could indicate she just wants to tell it how it is without coming across as bitter or twisted by the situations which inspired the song.
Eric Bogle
What follows is an award-winning anti-war song and takes its lead from Eric Bogle's The Green Fields of France. How Many More Willie McBrides? a song which comes from the composer's outrage felt during the ferment and scandal of the Blair regime and the Iraq war of 2003.
Once again her gentle and refined tones belie the seriousness of the subject but that's not to say the lyrics are not cutting.
Mulholland has this style of composing where she keeps her musical composure almost as if she is scared that anything too intrusive will get in the way of the message about which she feels so strongly. It seems Mulholland can draw inspiration from anywhere and Potting Shed Stomp is a tune inspired by a stage at The Tartan Heart Festival.
The tune is good but lacks a little oomph!
Her laid back style, while adding poignancy to other tracks, seems to restrict this tune and you sort of long for Mulholland to open the throttle a little.
Mulholland draws on her ancestry for Mi Le M' Uilinn Air Mo Ghlùin which is a love song from Murdo MacFarlane a highly-respected and influential figure among Gaelic and folk musicians.
Once again Mulholland's luxurious and breathy tones add something to the Gaelic lyrics creating a very thoughtful song, where even though you don't understand the words, unless you know Gaelic of course, that doesn't matter so much because it's worth just letting the gentle sounds wash over you.
The Funk Trunk may seem a strange title for the last track until you realise it was inspired and performed from inside the trunk of a giant, burned out redwood tree in the US.
The musician's first solo album
This is another case where the music seems to understate the emotion which Mulholland expresses in her sleeve notes where she says: "I wrote this tune in celebration of the hilariously joyful, madness of the night we communed with the ancients and bonded with the universe!"
The music is very reserved, laid back and certainly doesn't project any kind of madness, but perhaps it one of those cases where you had to be there.
In many ways this is a very honest and open album into which Mulholland has obviously invested a great deal of her emotions and that's a brave move.
What's most noticeable about Mulholland is the gentleness of her style when dealing with heavy and serious issues, the paradox of the two elements somehow seems to make you listen more intently than you would had it been a series of rants with the music playing angrily over the top. Mulholland is a very talented musician and although this album only really scratches the surface it's a safe bet that she will never not be in demand.

Fine 'n' Rosy is available on the Metagama Productions Label through metagamaproductions.com, lizamulholland.com, Birnam CD Online Shop, Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com, iTunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play and Spotify.

You can catch Mulholland in the New Year at Celtic Connections on January 27 where she is on the bill at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £14.