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Lissie - Carving Canyons (Album Review)

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Secluded on her 45 acre farm in Iowa while dealing with a sudden and devastating breakup as Covid rampaged around the globe, Lissie Maurus faced the unenviable task of working through a grief cycle informed by both her own and the wider world’s loss. Every shade of despair and loneliness informs the forthright, familiar and, ultimately, sanguine material on ‘Carving Canyons,’ the fifth record of the singer’s career.

Lissie processed her trauma by letting herself feel pain in order to move forwards with cautious optimism. If one song here encapsulates that ideal, it’s sun-blanched acoustic ballad Flowers. “It’s allowed to hurt, I’m allowed to burn, I’m allowed to wonder what you’re doing now and dig up all your dirt,” she sings.

Refusing to airbrush those dark musings, and deliberately articulating uncomfortable thoughts that society seems increasingly desperate for us to either repress or sanitise, opener Unravel immediately sets the tonal and lyrical bent of a breakup record that’s refreshingly raw and uncensored.  

Beginning with peaceful blue skyline picking until ominous chiming notes abruptly shatter the picture, Lissie reveals she’s ready to fall apart in order to, eventually, be put back together. Chugging ‘hell hath no fury’ diatribe Sad, meanwhile, aims to cast a sonic hex on the ex who abandoned her without warning, while Hate This conveys “a pain I can’t ignore” with such heartbreaking candour you’ll want to give her a hug.

Although exuding turmoil, it’s a credit to producer Curt Schneier, Lissie and her Nashville co-writers, such as Natalie Hemby, that the sentiments expressed throughout ‘Carving Canyons’ never make for a downbeat drag.  Unfurling beams of hope where necessary, the breezy Tom Petty-style anthem Hearts On Fire, alongside a title track that doubles down on metaphors from nature to express how every negative event chisels us into something wiser and more unique, provide subtle reminders that Lissie is climbing towards acceptance and transcendence one painful step at a time.

After flirting with contemporary pop on 2018’s ‘Castles,’ this gorgeous, organic, often dream-like meditation finds Lissie back on home turf and, as such, is a much better stylistic fit for such a ruminative effort. The singer’s elemental, instinctively expressive voice and captivating poetry are given ample space to mesmerise on a series of country-tinged Americana diamonds that sound like she’s reached back in time and divined them straight out of the Laurel Canyon ether circa 1975.

Flush with sublime melodies and breathtaking harmonies, Night Moves pulses on a neon lit bassline as glistening guitars build to a timeless Fleetwood Mac pop-rock hook, Unlock The Chains is a powerful exaltation of freedom, and the trumpet-flavoured Midnight, which closes the record in resolute fashion, finds Lissie ready to bid heartache adieu and embrace future possibilities.

Unless you’re extremely civilised, living in denial or just plain lucky, when a relationship implodes it’s usually a messy, turbulent, gut-wrenching shock to the system. Such situations can destroy us, if we let them. But by acknowledging and expressing every twisted thought and unbearable emotion, while keeping a keen eye on the bigger picture, Lissie has shown that you can emerge from even the darkest of experiences with newfound perspective and purpose.

Lissie Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 14 2023 - PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
Wed February 15 2023 - CARDIFF Tramshed
Thu February 16 2023 - BATH Komedia Bath
Sat February 18 2023 - NORWICH Arts Centre
Mon February 20 2023 - BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
Tue February 21 2023 - MANCHESTER Club Academy
Wed February 22 2023 - GLASGOW Saint Luke's
Thu February 23 2023 - LEEDS Wardrobe
Sat February 25 2023 - BRIGHTON Chalk
Mon February 27 2023 - CAMBRIDGE Junction
Tue February 28 2023 - LONDON KOKO

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