When: 7.30pm on Thursday 5 April 2012
Where: The Deaf Institute, 135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester M1 7HE
We’re proud to present a headline show from Manchester’s own Liz Green – the first since the release of her acclaimed debut album.
The least exotic thing about tragi-comic pop artist Liz Green is her name. No Alela here – according to family lore the 28-year-old Green is descended from a Liverpool line that includes executioners and rag-and-bone men. It’s at least certain that she carries on an ancestral tradition of storytelling, as her debut album O, Devotion! testifies.
Whatever took her so long? It’s now four years since Green’s first single, the critically adored, now sought-after Bad Medicine appeared, and she won the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition to find herself entertaining the main field from on high. Tipped everywhere from Mojo to The Sun, her uniquely lyrical blend of chanson, jazz and the starkest a capella, a distinct fingerpicking style more cable-knit than filigree and an idiosyncratic vocal style nodding to saints (or maybe martyrs) Judy Garland, Billie Holiday and Karen Dalton seemed set to conquer all. Yet she had seemingly dropped out of sight.
Except she hadn’t. Green has toured consistently, here and abroad, and overcome her dread of the recording studio with aplomb. Sequestered in Hackney’s legendary Toerag under the aegis of Liam Watson (White Stripes, everyone else) and subsisting on the local diet of ackee and saltfish, she finally relaxed enough to enjoy the process, so different from the instant gratification provided by an audience.
Green’s world features shadow puppetry and contraptions designed to ease her way into performance. She owes as much to a tradition of shape-shifting feminist artists from Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Lee Miller and Frida Kahlo to Cindy Sherman and Tracey Emin as to musicians from Lily Allen to Bessie Smith, prosaically named exotics both. Yet young Liz, born into Britpop, devoured music growing up. ‘I exhausted the 80s of punk and new wave, digested the 70s of David Bowie and mined my dad’s incredibly impressive collection of 60s Motown and Merseybeat.’ Where to go but back? Musicals. Gospel and blues and country. Interwar Weimar cabaret. Bugsy Malone’s dancehall. Marlon Brando’s brilliant turn in Guys and Dolls. Johnny Cash. Dolly Parton. Son House, Blind Willie McTell. The inimitable Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Oh, and Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River.
‘Then I began to enjoy discovering little nuggets of gold. Field recordings, songs sung at old medicine shows, cabarets and dancehalls. There’s a whole history in the songs. The distilled essence of eras gone by. I think I belong a bit in every one of them,’ says Liz, unafraid to present that which others store only in imagination. She continually redefines the line between the personal and the performance. If she can imagine it, she can bring it to life. A lifetime in gestation, it’s no wonder the timeless classicism of O, Devotion! took its sweet time to hatch.
‘Wonderful’ – Single of the Week, the Guardian Guide
‘Her enchanting mix of muddy blues-tinged folk songs possess a warmth that gets immediately under your skin’ – Music Week
Support comes from Alex Highton and Alabaster DePlume. After growing up in Liverpool, and then ten years or so in London, Alex Highton decamped with his family to rural Cambridgeshire. What he found was an England he didn’t know existed and a life he didn’t know he was looking for. With no expectations at all he wrote and recorded a bunch of songs that chronicled his journey from the city to the country. Just stuff about what was going on around him, his wife, his kids, breathing in the fresh air and staring into the abyss…
Alabaster DePlume delights in his own confusion. He embraces it. It makes him look a bit pretentious, sometimes, but in the end, it is deeply sincere. He seems to feel he ought to share certain things, just in case everyone else was just too afraid to mention it first. He’s been described as ‘Harrowingly funny’. He works with Debt Records in his hometown of Manchester, and performs poetry and song around the UK, at festivals, and in bars and concert halls.