Liz Durrett, it turns out, is the niece of Vic Chesnutt, one of those guys I hear about but don’t really listen to. Which is not to impugn Chesnutt, but there are lots of things I don’t really listen to, and life goes on. Husk, which was produced by Chesnutt, collects a slew of songs written and recorded by Durrett from ten years back, which makes for an intriguing after-the-fact release at the very least. Knowing ten years back, I admit I was fearing some collection of sub-Sarah McLachlan/Jewel dreck, and had that proven to be the case my righteous ire would be unmatched. But the role models for 1993 to 1996 era Durrett would appear to be early Low (certainly the backing band, including Chesnutt, have a warmer take on that sound) and the underrated Moon Seven Times.
Great? No, not necessarily, but very good, certainly enough that I could
see myself listening to it again—Durrett’s got a grand voice,
warm and rich, yearning even, and if the songs tend to blend into each
other as the album continues, there’s a subtle variety at points
which helps, while the matching of her and, presumably, Chesnutt’s
harmonies is a not-so-secret weapon on many choruses and verses that’s
crucial. Possibly the killer track is the briefest and most distinct—“Captive,” with
piano instead of Durrett’s guitar and a slight distancing on the
vocal. The shift from that to the just trippily narcotic enough guitar
figure opening “BC,” a song featuring a ghostly wordless
backing vocal from Durrett’s grandmother, is a brilliant bit of
sequencing. Without aiming to, Husk calls to mind a time and place for
me that I had almost forgotten about, one I was happy to remember again.
I can but guess her next album will focus on songs from the current time,
and it would be interesting to hear the differences.