Liz Simcock,
Seven Sisters Road
(Playpen, 2001)

"Dancing with You," the opening track to London-based Liz Simcock's debut album, Seven Sisters Road, is a dreamy, slow acoustic piece featuring Simcock's guitar and Jake Walker's viola. Most of the songs on the CD reflect this mood, with Simcock's June Tabor-like voice making the most of its warm, enveloping qualities. It's an interesting choice to use for the first song. On one hand, it's slow and pensive -- the sort of song often saved for the closing. Nevertheless, Walker's viola in the first couple of measures, along with Simcock's vocals, help make it an invitation to listen to more.

Another slow-paced choice is "Strand of Silver," which again has only Simcock's guitar and Walker's viola setting the pace. There is a real June Tabor feel to this melancholy, yet poignant, number. The narrator gains a new strand of silver in her hair "for every time you feel this way" when "(my) words don't soothe you and my hands don't heal." "Masterpiece" indeed is a masterpiece torch song about "the one who got away." Simcock plays tin whistle during the instrumentals on "Forty Years," a song about a woman whose husband "gave (her) forty good long years and four good children kind," but she believes "that he gave his heart to she he left behind." As she dives deep for the low notes at the end of each verse, she sounds as if she's working on a traditional ballad found in the remote depths of Appalachia. It's a compelling piece.

The only problem with Seven Sisters Road is that the songs too often tend to display similar moods. They are poignant, emotional gut-burners and tearjerkers. Individually, they are strong songs, but a listener can only experience so much catharsis in one sitting. To change the pace, the title track is an upbeat song about love and the confidence its brings. There's a pop-oriented upbeat chorus and dramatic crescendo on "Hurricane," and "Burning Up" speeds up the pace as Simcock picks and strums her guitar more intensely. However, the album sometimes seems a mite too pensive and reflective. Having more of a band might assist this dilemma in the future; additional vocal variety could also lend the songs more diversity in terms of tone and mood.

Overall, though, Seven Sisters Road is a fine debut from a British acoustic artist who should be placed on the "to-be-watched" list. Her follow-up album will be much anticipated.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]
Rambles: 9 March 2002