I first became aware of Memphis-via-Atlanta singer and musician Liz Brasher back when she’d share her gospel, soul and folk discoveries in a certain vinyl collector’s Facebook group. Her passion as a crate-digger, excited to find cultural touchstones and hidden gems at record stores and used book shops, proves as vital as her God-given musical talents on her new album Painted Image.
Love songs like “Heaven and Earth” and the declaration of independence “Hand to the Plow” owe debts of gratitude to the soul and R&B singles that once emanated from the South. The current Americana boom is as much about fresh takes on these rural and urban sounds from the past as it is about country singers from outside the mainstream. That’s why there’s an established audience for Charley Crockett, The War & Treaty and others that needs to hear this album.
Brasher shines even brighter when embracing Christian imagery and gospel music. “Blood of the Lamb,” with its horn accompaniment that’s more classic reggae than American pop, and “Living Water” go beyond singing old favorites from church. They allow Brasher to explore why the music of Mavis Staples and other immortal voices transcends proselytizing and speaks so vividly and frankly about the human condition. Good gospel singers master the inner-personal storytelling loved by consumers of Southern music and literature, meaning these songs should connect with listeners regardless of their beliefs or worship preferences.
Brasher could’ve fronted anything from a fancy jazz ensemble to a cheesy cover band and still wowed us with her mighty voice. Fortunately, she devoted her creative energy to the Americana fray. That decision lets her share vinyl discoveries and innermost thoughts while placing her own stamp on evergreen sounds.