I met Liz before I had ever heard of her music. I was at a concert hall in Portland at 7:30 am on a Sunday morning to observe a local church music team practice when this tall, African-American woman walked in. She was as sleepy eyed as I was, but exuded a passionate warmth as she eagerly told me about the music tour she had just completed. It was full of disasters; her drummer's grandmother died so he had to be flown home mid-tour, her bass player used every excuse to smoke weed and party, and Liz broke a toe climbing the stairs at a slightly decrepit venue. "Were these Chrsitian venues that booked you?" I asked. "Not at all" she replied. "They just invited me to sing my songs and my songs are about Jesus."
Over that week, I had many chances to interact with Liz. She told me stories of her health traumas and their corresponding miracles, her successful television production career that she was quite happy with, and how her music kept persisting in opening doors for her until a full-time career seemed inevitable. And as I met other local creatives, her voice kept appearing on their projects; in an animated children's music video on entomology, at my favorite hip-hop artist's concert, as a background vocalist for a yet-to-be released blues album.
It was only on my train ride back to Canada that I put on her album, There's A Light, for the first time. I barely listened to anything else for the rest of the month. This is a record that feels classic, like something you would expect to find flipping through the gospel racks of dusty vinyl shop. The music is simple - never too complex, yet full of unexpected flourishes that surprise and hook you in for another listen. The band and production is tight, providing the perfect background to Liz's powerful voice, which effortlessly walks the tightrope of both gentle and expressive. The lyrics have a hymn like quality, expressing robust truths about God and His salvation. But like the most well loved hymns, they convey not merely abstract ideas, but the marks of a life wrestled amongst their implications.
Don't sleep on this record. It's equally at home amongst the wooden pews of a church as it is on the stage of blues bar. I'll be playing it for years to come.
Album: There's A Light
Artist: Liz Vice
Year of Release: 2015
Genre: Soul/ Gospel
Stand Out Track: All Must Be Well