Hard Won by Lizzie No

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

Lizzie’s voice is the first thing that you will notice on her debut album, Hard Won. It is a beautiful and memorable voice. She is also pitch perfect.  She grew up singing in her church choir and also plays the harp. She discovered Bob Dylan and her musical focus changed. She taught herself how to play Dylan songs on her harp.

She was also unaware of the connection of African Americans to folk music. That is incredibly ironic since African American influence is what is primarily responsible for the evolution of folk music. Artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Leadbelly, and the jug bands of the late 20s and 30s shaped the country, folk, and blues landscape that is still thriving today.

Lizzie is carrying the torch for the next generation of great folk singers. To just call this music strictly folk is selling it short. There are elements of country, blues, jazz, and alternative as well. The individual pieces are incorporated seamlessly by Lizzie. Again, her voice is absolutely gorgeous. And no over singing!

Musically, it is a little on the minimalist side. There is not a lot of production gimmicks or knob twisting. Most of the songs are arranged with some pedal steel, strings, bass, and drums. Which is fine because Lizzie’s voice is well suited and thrives in this type of musical environment. 

Most of the songs seem to be incredibly personal and introspective. Lizzie is really looking inward at not just events in her life, but delving into raw emotions and psychology. This is not easy to do and takes an incredible amount of courage and self confidence to “pull back the curtain” like Lizzie does. I commend her on her very tender and passionate writing style. That emotion is very evident on all of the tracks.

As I stated, Lizzie’s voice is what I first noticed. The voice might have first captured my attention, but it is the writing and arrangement that holds it. There are ten, very solid songs in this collection that should be in your collection. Don’t wait to hear her on the radio. Be proactive!

Listen to Hard Won by Lizzie No

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