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Lizabett RussoLizabett Russo
Album: The Burning Mountain
Label: Folklore Noir
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.lizabettrusso.com/

"The Burning Mountain" is a feral, deep, earthy album which is as emotive as it is poetic from artist Lizabett Russo. So far this year, it stands out as the most original thing I have laid ears on as of yet. As her second album it shows a reasonable amount of craft and polish, and some exciting flourishes that you really don't see coming. At present she is touring in Japan and then closer to home in Europe for this album release.

How can you categorise Russo? Some would probably call her a Romanian Kate Bush, but that is far too simplistic. Indeed there is a primal tone to her music; it is gutsy in a similar way and it's arrangements are equally brave and evocative, but her singing voice and ennunciations are something else. She has been described as having a style "refreshingly her own", a phrase I would normally be highly sceptical of, but I believe it is truly warranted here. If comparisons could be made, there is some hints of Melora Creager (of Rasputina etc) albeit it with a different regional character of voice, her timings are at times similar to Fiona Apple and the lyrics in their weird beauty and structure echo the darker folk of Emily Portman. The comparisons could go on, but this would be insulting as this singer and the album has a lot of it's own to bring, and we should look at what is here further.

The arrangements are particularly good. The guy behind mixing (Robin Wynn Evans) has done a stellar job at making a deeply layered, interesting and incredibly clear sound. Everything sounds great and can be picked up, there is no drowning out of the lyrics and each note is there to be heard. Lizabett's brooding voice is a great accompaniment, it practically melts into the tracks. The eclectic and informed uses of instrumentation, e.g. the tongue drum on the Burning Mountain track, almost bring an aboriginal influence. Whether the title refers to Mount Wigan in Australia or a more esoteric subject matter is certainly a debate; but it is certainly not out of place with the idea. Further environmental and elemental aspects are explored in "We are still beautiful people" where you get the sound of the sea, the creaking of a boat, and a bevy of gulls Lizabett muses and explores,"nothing can bring you down while if you don't let them kill your soul." It is a scratchy, mind-hum of a song that sounds cerebral, a weirdly spiritual song sometimes in the vein of Enya, and the marine elements remind incredibly strongly of the wonderful "Shipping Song" (Lisa Knapp), but of course with a more winding path.

A song will often start a certain way and you think you know what is going on, then the timing will change and it becomes something else. "Monster's at night" starts as a reflective, introspective solo track before becoming the middle part of a lounge song with appropriate 70s wordless lyrics and all. The element of mystery is there on the first listen, and Mo Evans' Rhode Piano certainly paints this era's picture. Pretty genre breaking and more fascinating than it should be, it's hard to resist the pull of the chorus. "Save Me From Myself" is more like an old-time ballad which shows Lizabett's voice as a showcase of sweet, soulfulness. As one of the more easily accessible tracks it is a powerful indicator that she is really comfortable in a number of different singing mediums. The emotional is wrestling and brimming throughout striking a serious chord of nostalgia and warmth through it's duration. A great addition, and probably one of the best showcases for a general audience on the disc.

Why she is not bigger than she is, I honestly do not know.

She is hands down the most interesting new artist I have heard this year so far, Russo is textured and brave and there is a rare originality in these tracks, I strongly recommend her far and wide.

Peter Taranaski