Consider this something of a ripple effect of the Midnight Oil carnival that wrapped up at the beginning of this week at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney (oh yes, I reviewed it. Read that Oils review here ) where Liz Stringer and Leah Flanagan were key contributors to the band’s last ever tour.
You might also consider this an addendum, or maybe a long-existing prequel, to Liz Stringer’s fabulous 2022 album First Time Really Feeling (oh yes, I reviewed that too. Read about that record here ) as Wind Back Wednesday offers to help anyone who saw the Oils on this tour and thought of those backing singers, damn, they’re good, I’d like to hear more.
So here, for them and for those already but more recently on board the Stringer bus, some thoughts from back in 2008 on her second album.
Pendulum (One Little Indian)
YOU WON’T FIND THIS IN any recipe book but Liz Stringer has a voice deeply soaked in some oak barrel, stretched out to dry on ancient wooden racks and seasoned with herbs collected by wizened old women in old pinafores. I'm convinced of it, particularly when you match the voice to the face, which is guileless and young enough to suggest the ‘60s is near enough to ancient history.
This voice is not rough, far from it. No, when I say it is lived in I don't mean it's been abused, but rather it’s absorbed a fair number of experiences, both hers and others’, and allowed them to settle in, become her. Then in turn that "knowledge" both informs and deepens the quality of the songwriting. Again and again across this album you feel the song and the character in it in a direct visceral way.
Take Drawn To You, which moves with the sad grace of Emmylou Harris on her intense Wrecking Ball album, but without Daniel Lanois’s claustrophobic atmosphere. When Stringer sings in the low burning embers of the song, "We both had our scars, now some of them are raw/But I never like perfection, it's such a fucking bore", you hear pain and the defiant last echoes of what used to be hope, resignation and never quite quenched lust.
Or how about Get Myself Together, set in an old folk style and near enough to something which could have tempted Nick Cave. Stringer sets up vast empty spaces around and indeed within the narrator who asks " Do you know how it feels to have your pride ripped from you/Like you are only ever half a man?/Do you know how it feels to have your only son recoil/when you stretch out one trembling hand?"
There’s plenty more too. Baby Jane feels 19th-century enough for me to picture the characters of the sadly missed television series Deadwood each time I hear it, Lady Luck is an incongruous but palate-cleansing upbeat country tune with more than a modicum of optimism; Having Trouble Sleeping rewrites yearning; and Over The Sea sways and aches equally.
This album, Liz Stringer's second, was released a little while back, but it was too good to be confined to minor placings, hence the wait. Waiting won’t hurt it though because Pendulum, and Stringer, will be around for quite a while. You’ll make sure of that once you hear this.