Lis Harvey,
(Erlendahle, 2002)

The publicity included with the review copy of Topography concentrates on singer Lis Harvey's record-breaking attempt to play 50 states of America in 60 days and perhaps find a place in the Guinness Book of Records. (Her attempt ended successfully on Oct. 13 with a coffeehouse performance in St. Paul, Minn. According to reports, Harvey put 17,000 miles on her car in two months and celebrated her 25th birthday while in her 25th state on the tour.)

It must have been some tour, if Topography is any evidence. Lis Harvey is a top-class singer-songwriter but, like Woody Guthrie and Leonard Cohen, her album suffers from a certain "sameness" in the melodies. But the lyrics are excellent and they alone are enough to stop you in your tracks with the singer's conviction and strength.

"The Lake Song" is a song of young love and discovery. There are witty lyrics concerning the young lovers: "You call me a tomboy, I guess this makes you a tomgirl." The performance is excellent and production does not get in the way of the words. "Fish in the Pan" sounds as if it were recorded live. It is a very good song performed well in a distinctive style.

I was fascinated by the title "White Linen Evening." The song refers to the sadness of life and a suicide where her "hand shook so bad she had to pull the trigger twice."

Individually, some of these tracks could be a breakthrough vehicle for Harvey, but as an album it would benefit from a little more variety of sounds. Still, I have no doubt that her 50 State Tour concerts were events not to be missed because her conviction comes over very strongly on the CD. If she tours again, do try to catch a show!

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 11 January 2003

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