Liz Kennedy – Hike Up Your Socks
The twelve song, fifth studio album from Liz Kennedy, Hike Up Your Socks, has a title that reflects a sense of resolve in this songwriter that few of her contemporaries share. Rather than miring her art in a glorious but distant past, Kennedy’s writing makes excellent use of long standing formulas and consistently finds ways to pour old wine into new bottles. It further aids her efforts that she’s a unique singer with supreme interpretative powers whose performances take already fine lyrics and transform them into mini epics of the heart. She has a softly forceful, present voice, but Kennedy is never a bucket of blood blues singer – there’s a tremendous amount of finesse involved with what she does without it ever once undercutting the emotional richness she brings to her performances. Hike Up Your Socks covers an impressive array of styles and has the sort of immediate resonance, musically and lyrically, that guarantees a place in posterity. It might very well be Kennedy’s finest release yet.
The grace in songs like “Everyone Knows How It Goes” is impossible to ignore. This is a song that wears the world like a loose garment and there’s an underrated amount of beauty in its melancholy resignation to the world’s realities. Kennedy’s voice quite clearly embodies that attitude and the accompanying bluesy touch adding color to the piece, like acoustic slide guitar, accentuate that effect. Taj Mahal’s vocal and instrumental contributions to the song further deepen its experience. “Attention” has a little bit more of a light barroom swing, but the blues is just as strong here as we hear in the opener. Kennedy puts some more seductive fire around the words but never so much that it drags down the performance. “Love Gave Me Away” includes more contributions from the great Taj Mahal and his harmonica playing fills the musical canvas up with another thick, vivid color. It’s another tune with an amiable swing that pushes back against the sometimes downbeat or sad demeanor of her lyrics. Make no mistake, however, Kennedy is never one to go in for literary histrionics – even the darkest moments in this collection are painted with an artful stroke that never overemphasizes a particular shade in the album’s palate.
“Hello Romance” is a classily assembled and breezy bit of pop song product from a singer/songwriter. If it’s commercial, it’s commercial with substance and there’s never any sense of Kennedy or her musical partners taking short cuts and cheating the audience. This certainly has a more upbeat sweep than many of the other tracks and fits in nicely with the other tunes. The title song is, arguably, the album’s finest moment thanks to the seamless synthesis of styles it brings together and the confidence Kennedy and her fellow players share from the outset. “The Best Worst Times” is an intelligently written tune with a largely acoustic bent and benefits, as so many other songs do on Hike Up Your Socks, from exemplary vocal harmonies that lend further musicality to what Kennedy’s doing. This is a supremely beautiful album with the sort of attention to detail that we hear from few modern performers. Liz Kennedy has elevated her art with this release and crafted a set of songs sure to serve her well in live performance.