Houston Music

Lise Liddell

The cover photo of the artist shows a pretty bleached blond holding an electric guitar and wearing a low-cut bra under a transparent white blouse. Her earring is color-coordinated with the graphics. Eye candy on the cover of a CD usually doesn't bode well for the weightiness of the enclosed contents. Unfortunately that holds true here.

Liddell, who wrote or co-wrote all the songs, has a pleasing enough voice, at times slightly reminiscent of Maria McKee, Janis Ian or even Nanci Griffith, but nothing here distinguishes her vocals or the tunes she sings. If you believe that good songwriting should make you feel the experience the artist is describing, don't expect this disc to meet that criterion. Another failing is that most of the songs are of the same mid- or slow tempo. One cut even features a grating drum program that would be better suited to a hip-hop record than Liddell's singer-songwriter-leaning Americana.

The song set does employ varied instrumentation, including violins, lap and pedal steel guitar, plus tasty accordion played by Joel Guzman (Aztex, Joe Ely band). However, competent players using an array of instruments can't overcome the weak songs and the pedestrian delivery. Ultimately, the ineffectual material, similar arrangements and downbeat mood cause the listener to lose interest fast.

Some song collections require repeated listening to expose their genius, but that process just emphasizes the inherent averageness here. The liner notes reveal that some of the photography in the insert is "stock," and that adjective could just as easily describe the music.

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Timothy J. O'Brien