Liz Kennedy - Hike Up Your Socks
Liz Kennedy has carved out an indelible reputation as a formidable singer/songwriter/storyteller and her songs often fall in the realm of Americana, Folk and AAA (Adult Album Alternative) music. It scarcely encompasses what she does, however. This isn’t a collection of blues songs with all the predictable changes but a textured and superbly produced affair that covers the gamut of roots music influences while still showing off a distinctly modern flair. The album is produced by Kennedy’s longtime collaborator Joel Jaffe, known for his work at Studio D in Sausalito, California, a host to legendary recordings from artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana. The conditions are ripe for Kennedy to produce a first rate collection and recording – she doesn’t disappoint. Hike Up Your Socks is one of the most complete musical experiences released in recent memory.
It begins well with the track “Everyone Knows How It Goes”. This is evocative, artfully handled blues with more than a few traditional elements accentuating the feel and a great vocal duet between Kennedy and guest star Taj Mahal. His gruff, heartfelt bellow pairs up with Kennedy’s voice in an unexpectedly successful way and his musical contributions to the piece, namely his banjo playing, brings more musicality to the proceedings. “Attention” is a less cluttered blues than the opener but the atmosphere, in many ways, remains just as strong. The lyric is one of many sharply written texts Kennedy calls upon for Hike Up Your Socks’ songs. She has a lot of variation in her vocal delivery, despite favoring the blues, and that versatility serves her songs well. “Say the Words” is another deeply affecting lyric this time turned to the service of a pop song and the gentle ballad she concocts is one of the best moments on this album. Kennedy gives one of her most sensitive vocals on the album.
“Love Gave Me Away” features Taj Mahal’s contributions once again, this time via his harmonica playing, and it brings even more color to an already soulful piece. The relaxed gait of this tune makes it all the more likeable, as well, and Kennedy gives us a vocal that matches the song’s graceful swing. “Hello Romance” is a generally bright and hopeful tune with a lot of welcome musical substance. The arrangement shifts tempo at a few key points in the performance and the band never misses a step. This song, like the other tracks included with this release, have a strongly live, intimate feel and few songs make better use of that attribute than this one. The title song is the album’s musical magnum opus, a twisting composition with strong internal logic and a layered mix that renders multiple instruments with an ear turned towards balance. It is one of the more memorable personal statements, as well, that Kennedy seems to make on this album. The backing vocals are more limited than usual and the mood more muted on “The Signs”; it’s just another indication of Kennedy’s stylistic dexterity that she can so convincingly inhabit a variety of sonic landscapes and seem quite at home in them all. Hike Up Your Socks is as complete of an effort as Kennedy could hope for at such a point in her career. This is the point, customarily, when artists’ careers show a perceptible slowing down or else slip into stagnation. There’s no danger of that with Liz Kennedy.