Review of Liz Rose’s “Swimming Alone” by Lesley Hastings

  • By Nick Cantwell
  • May 19, 2017
  • Comments Off on Review of Liz Rose’s “Swimming Alone” by Lesley Hastings
Looking at Texan born Liz Rose’s long list of songwriting credits and her success in the field it is incredible to discover that she took up the craft relatively late in life, aged 37. Now Nashville -based she is possibly best known for her multiple collaborations with Taylor Swift as well as her double platinum, Grammy and CMA winning cowrite (with Lori McKennaand Hillary Lindsey)  ” Girl Crush” recorded by Little Big Town. Mainly a lyricist,  she is the first to admit she isn’t a singer but I was fortunate enough to see her in London at last year’s CMA Songwriters Series, she was incredibly humble and  seemed really nervous and even overwhelmed about performing a selection of her compositions among the more experienced artists.
Equally  she  never set out to be a recording artist but I’m so happy that she decided to take the plunge (it took some persuasion apparently) as this self released album is a collection of very personal, autobiographical songs that definitely need to be sung by the person who has lived their lyrics rather than being a pitched to artists far removed from the experiences they describe. There’s a vulnerability that comes through in her sometimes faltering vocals which  complements the tales being relayed, and the simple understated arrangements suit the album’s mood perfectly. Collaborating with her closest writing friends (and pouring out her heart to them no doubt during the process) Liz Rose paints pictures of her past that will appeal to those who (like me) appreciate a great writer intimately sharing pieces of their life, almost like an interview set to music. Indeed the 10 tracks are arranged almost chronologically. (“Woodstock” possibly the exception) starting with her school days in “Grocery Money” then moving on to the time spent working in the family run “Five and Dime” store (“before the Walmart stores, everything you needed was inside those doors”). Several songs describe her wild and rebellious teenage years (the title track as well as “Letters From Prison”, “Tulsa” and “Woodstock”).   “Yellow Room” is a poignant and fabulously descriptive tribute to her father who was “head of the table and heart of the home” and “Sacred Ground” wistfully describes her family home that has ” long been bought and sold” but “always seemed like paradise”. Light relief comes in the form of the punchy and fun “Ex Husbands”,  performed at the aforementioned Songwriters Series where it got a great reception but for me it doesn’t sit well here among the more intimate, reflective reminiscences and is better listened to as a stand alone song.
If I had to chose favourites, the title track  ” Swimming Alone” would be up there, telling of her feelings of isolation as a teenager,  she sings of being  “a California dreamer in a Texan town….I learnt how to survive swimming alone”  but it’s the appropriately placed final song “My Apology ” that I keep returning to, where she finally realises that throughout her life she has unintentionally broken the hearts of many while “searching for who I was meant to be” Although you “can’t change the facts or fix the hearts you break” saying sorry is the least she can do. I particularly like how she includes her own heart in those that have been wronged, it “took the blame when it should have been on me”.
In a recent Musicrow interview Liz says of the album  “I’m not trying to get cuts, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m trying to get a record deal or be a touring artist. I just had to do this for me, and I’m lucky enough to have the best songwriters, producers, musicians and friends around me. I just want to get it out and see what happens. I want people to discover it.” Well I’m really glad I have discovered it, and hope this review may lead to a few of you checking it out too.
Review written by Lesley Hastings

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