Lise Liddell

Houstonian Lise Liddell went all the way down under -- to Brisbane, to be exact -- to record this album, and it sounds like some of the songs were written "under" something else…a table, perhaps, or certainly a dark cloud. At any rate, Liddell's pop-rockin' Americana is best when her slightly surreal lyrics are booziest and blackest. There's "Break My Body," with lines like "If I could smoke you away / drink you away, sex you away / It'd be worth the price I'd pay." Or "You Get What You Ask For," where Liddell says, "I've been settlin'; I've been strugglin' / I've been settlin': I've been sufferin' for not much of your heart." But "Decade Down the Line" tops all of her relationship-gone-wrong songs, not least because it uses outside imagery -- Texas farmers trying to wrest a living from the earth -- to convey the thought that love just as surely dies as it blossoms.

Aussie Michael Flanders produced the record and chipped in on guitars (steel, acoustic and electric), mandolin and Dobro, and overall the band is flawless. Too much so -- it would be cool to hear the contrast between Liddell's light 'n' airy vocals and some raw, distorted roots-rockin' power. And occasionally Liddell's lyrics veer off into creative-writing-workshop territory ("Pour out the wine from the chalice of the graced" from "Hard Up to Love"; "Cast all your pearls into the fountain of youth" from "Cream"). But when she writes from both her heart and head, as on "Decade Down the Line," she serves up some first-rate Americana. Or should that be Australiana?

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