Lizzy Long may not be a familiar name to southern gospel listeners, but she’s achieved notoriety on the bluegrass circuit through her work with the likes of Earl Scruggs and Little Roy Lewis. This is her first solo album. Her voice is probably most comparable to Tammy Wynette, but it’s very much her own. It’s pure and rich and keeps your ears coming back for more. Long herself co-wrote a number of the songs for this project, together with Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, Lyn Rowell, and others. For the most part, it resides firmly in country/bluegrass territory, with a couple of detours into Broadway and
schmaltz inspirational. Click on to read my track-by-track review.
1. Blueberry Pie: The title track, written by Wayne Haun, Val Dacus and Randall Garland, is a sweet ode to the strong and silent types who show their tender side only to a privileged few. Although it’s almost too sweet, and a little bit confusing. For example, to begin drawing the contrast between how the husband appears on the outside and how loving he actually is towards his wife, the chorus says, “You’re as cold as the North Wind in winter.” I find it hard to think of a person who truly is cold, yet also “as sweet as blueberry pie.” I could think of other words like “reticent,” “prickly,” or “difficult” that would still create that contrast without leaning towards contradiction. (Obviously these are no-gos as lyrical replacements, but I’m just explaining why I think the actual line should be re-worked.)
2. Speak Now: As a music critic, I confess that I sometimes put writers like Haun and Joel Lindsay into a box, believing I’ve essentially figured out what their strengths and limitations are. But then they’ll go and surprise me with a song like this. It’s elegant, graceful, poetic, and feels like it could have been at home on a classic country album.
Speak now, or speak nevermore
I don’t have a lifetime to wait
Speak now, or let me go free
Tomorrow just might be too late
4. Love, I’m in Love: Featuring guest BGVs from Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, this is my personal pick of the project. Written by Lizzy and Lyn Rowell, it has some of the best lyrics on the album. Only a few lines give away that it’s contemporary work. (E.g., “My dreams all made sense.”) But then you have a lovely passage like this:
5. God is There: This is the project’s first real misstep, despite a nice cameo from Rhonda Vincent. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with the string orchestration, but it completely interrupts the stylistic flow, suddenly switching from bluegrass to a more
Taking you for granted is the last thing I would do
When I make a promise, you can trust it to be true
I could search forever, never find a love like this
Now it’s time the whole world knows that you’re my last first kiss
7. Figueroa Mountain: Okay, now we’re back on track, with another truly delish throwback bluegrass number (this one a collaboration among Haun/Lindsey/Long). In case anyone’s wondering, yes, Figueroa Mountain is a real peak in the Rockies. Alison Krauss and Union Station could add this to their set any time.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09UTn-hpjiw?rel=0&w=500&h=315 8. Backwoods Lullaby: Lee Black has talked a little bit about this co-write with Twila Labar, which draws from the well of his own personal memories. It’s neat to know that these first person lyrics about a little woodland slice of heaven are actually based on reality. And in Lizzy’s hands, it really does become a lullaby.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdTJhrO_rtU?rel=0&w=500&h=315 10. Love’s a Mountain Road: Co-writer Lyn Rowell seems to like making metaphors out of mountains, valleys and such in her work (see also “Jesus is Holding My Hand”). In this one, she and Long use a mountain climb as a metaphor for love, and a very good one too. It contains some hard truths for any couple, but with the promise of hope. “Don’t bother looking back to level ground. You started this journey, so keep doing down. When the path turns so rocky, why you’re getting somewhere.”
Rating: 4.5 stars