erasing clouds

Liz Durrett, Outside Our Gates

by dave heaton

Liz Durrett’s voice is inviting, hazy, full of atmosphere – day-dreaming even when she’s communicating sheer panic, like on “Wake to Believe,” the first track of her third LP Outside Our Gates. “Mind, mind let me go / your prison is all I’ll know,” she sings over delicate acoustic guitar, with mournful strings waiting in the wings. Isolation, confusion, resignation to death are expressed within a milieu of wilderness.

Nature imagery plays a role in the whole album, actually. There’s “Wild As Them (A Memorial)”, with someone searching for bones in the woods, listening for coyotes; “Lost Hiker”, a search for a hiker on a high peak; “The Sea A Dream (A Lullaby)”, poetically referencing a sandy beach, the winds, the sea, the moon. Notice all of these songs are really about people, lost and found people. Nature is part of the landscape of dreams, a representation of our internal lives, along with love letters and childhood memories.

”In the Eaves” offers a stunning image in that more domestic setting: the notion that words passed between family members never go away. “Now they hang there, wait there in the eaves,” Durrett sings. These haunting iterations of human pain, dreams and longing are uniquely articulated by Durrett, a gifted lyricist. And they are a perfect match for her equally haunting voice. She has a natural way of conveying anguish, concern, surprise and sadness, at once.

What Outside Our Gates accomplishes better than the two previous albums is to really make us hear the subtleties in her songs and singing, by varying up the musical styles more, and through arrangements that are often dramatic, engineered to keep us alert. The slow, driving anxiety of “All of them All”, the especially pop-single-like tunefulness of the horn-laden “Wild As Them”, the hopeful-despite-itself tone of “You Live Alone”, the bluesy junkyard shuffle “Always Signs”, the lush closing lullaby “The Sea A Dream” – these live together as a family of songs, comfortably expressing the unease and beauty of everyday life.


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