Home Live Review Live Review: Liz Longley w/ Sarah Peacock @ Jammin’ Java — 11/18/23

Live Review: Liz Longley w/ Sarah Peacock @ Jammin’ Java — 11/18/23

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Live Review: Liz Longley w/ Sarah Peacock @ Jammin’ Java — 11/18/23
Liz Longley (Photo courtesy the artist)

I once heard a musician say, about the music business, “Love the music, hate the business.” When an artist or band is signed to a record label, the label can choose, for any reason or no reason whatsoever, not to release an album.

The executives at record companies aren’t infallible when it comes to either artistic or commercial judgments. A record label declined to release Wilco’s seminal Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and they were wrong about that, commercially and artistically. They were wrong, too, about their decision not to release Liz Longley’s latest album, Funeral For My Past.

Longley, who played to a sold-out audience at Vienna’s Jammin’ Java on Nov. 18, was offered the opportunity to buy the album from the label so she could release it herself. This was rather expensive, and she couldn’t have afforded to buy the album back out of her own pocket. So Longley went to Kickstarter, and, not only was her campaign successful, she is the fourth-most funded female solo artist on the platform.

It’s easy to see why Longley is so beloved by her fans. She has a gorgeous voice, and she’s a terrific songwriter. A graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she studied voice on a scholarship, Liz has won three songwriting competitions:┬áthe BMI John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship Competition, the International Acoustic Music Awards, and the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Stream Funeral for My Past by Liz Longley on Spotify:

Born and raised in suburban Chester County, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, Longley has been on a musical path since she was very young. When she was 9 years old, she performed a song at her elementary school’s talent show and received a standing ovation. From that moment, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. By the time she was in high school, she was playing at local clubs and festivals.

Longley recorded her debut album, Somewhere In The Middle, while she was a student at Berklee. She came in first in the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest Songwriter Showcase and was named co-winner of the Mountain Stage New Song Contest.

Liz first made an impact in the New England folk scene, a fertile ground that has launched the career of numerous singer-songwriters. Splitting time between Boston and New York, she opened for some of my favorite artists, like Shawn Colvin and Nanci Griffith. In 2011, she moved to Nashville. Her second number in the Jammin’ Java set was “Memphis,” one of the first songs she wrote after relocating.

Nashville is a music town, and it can be hard to escape other musicians you might not want to encounter. Liz wrote “Red Hot Vintage Camaro” about one of her exes. Several years later, when she was eight-and-half months pregnant, she ended up doing a songwriters-in-the-round show with that ex’s wife.

Longley opened her set with “Sending My Love.” Introducing “Torture,” she said, “It’s hard to write when you’re happy. What’s interesting about being happy?” As Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike. All unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.” That’s why no one wants to read about happy families. But it’s not all doom and gloom with Liz: “I like to have one silly song in the set,” she said.

It’s not easy to characterize Liz’s music. A shirt for sale at the merch table listed the word salad of genres generated by her followers on Patreon. “I wanted to be a jazz singer,” she said before playing “the only jazz song I ever wrote.” Americana is part of or influences what she does; for her encore, she was joined by opening act Sarah Peacock on John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery.” She also covered one of my favorite songs, “Rainbow Connection.” It was interesting to hear it on acoustic guitar as opposed to banjo, as it’s usually played. She closed out her set with the old R&B classic “Higher and Higher.”

Next year, Longley has two records coming out, an LP of new material and EP, called “It’s Me Again,” of acoustic reworkings of her older songs. She shared a couple of songs that will appear on the album; the working title one of them is “Some Things.” The set also saw her getting into the holiday spirit with “Feels Like Christmas.”

Watch Liz Longely perform “Feels Like Christmas” live for One Mic Christmas on YouTube:

Singer-songwriter Sarah Peacock opened the show, beginning with her song “Lightning Rod.” In March 2020, she released the album Burn The Witch. Though she’s from Georgia, she fell in love with the vast deserts of the Western United States, which is what “Mojave” is about. Like Liz, Sarah also has a Patreon where she releases exclusive content. (If you’re looking for a way to support artists you love, but don’t want to purchase physical media, Patreon is a great way to do that). One of those pieces of exclusive content is a cover of Heart’s “Crazy On You.” 

“In case nobody’s told you today,” Sarah said, “you are loved, no matter who you love.” She wrote “Who You Are” for Pride Month. She wrote “The Cool Kids” about her experiences being bullied as a kid — this was one I could relate to. She’s not wrong that bullies hurt people because there’s something broken inside of them, but I was often more worried about the things they broke in me, like my face. The song was also written because, earlier this year, she had a baby girl, Willow, after 5 years of trying. She finished her set with “Lady MacGyver,” a feminist take on traditional country, and “Burn The Witch.”

I’m always impressed with the level of talent Jammin Java gets — you can see some really amazing artists there in an intimate setting. And Liz Longley is definitely an amazing artist.

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