Liza Ohlback – Unravelling
Self-Release – 2023
10 tracks; 41 minutes
Australian Liza Ohlback has made previous albums, but this is the first time I have heard her. She has a good voice with strong gospel overtones and it was no surprise to read that she has appeared in a stage production of Pearl – The Janis Joplin Story. For this album Liza wrote seven songs, three on her own and four with band members, and there are three covers. Liza is backed by her regular band, The Mercy Train Boys: Eric Rasmussen on guitar, Rick Melick on keys, Mick Malouf on bass and Greg Ohlback on drums; in addition Jeff Lenham and Matt Ross add guitar to a track each, Clayton Doley plays keys on two cuts, Victor Rounds bass on two and Daniel ‘Ducky’ Moore plays all the horn parts where heard. Backing vocals feature on several tracks, performed by “The Mercy Train Singers”, Liza, Eric, Rick and Greg, plus Stephanie Ohlback and Dan Markovina.
Opening track “Gets Hard Sometimes” features the horns and bounds along in impressive style, immediately demonstrating Liza’s vocal power. Liza then tries to discover what is going on with her child in a powerful, emotional performance, enhanced by Clayton Doley’s swirling keys: “If you can’t tell me what is weighing on your mind it’ll eat you up inside, come Talk To Me Child”. The band hits a jazzy stride on “Watch My Smoke”, Liza having no qualms about getting out of a bad relationship, before the title track “Unravelling” in which Liza is clearly in a bad way, “finding excuses just to stay in bed”. The final three originals are all solo compositions by Liza: “What A Fool Will Do” is a blues ballad which describes how you can be head over heels in love, despite the fact that the target of your affections is not really a worthy choice; “Because Of You” is a funkier tune with the horns and choppy rhythms, Liza barely recognising herself, so much is she under the guy’s influence. “Leave Before The Dam Breaks” is a slow-burner of an album closer, its gospel feel enhanced by the choir in full voice.
The three covers are all interesting. Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move” will be familiar to everyone, not least from the Stones’ version, but here it is returned to its gospel origins in spectacular form as Liza testifies over the choir and some fine piano accompaniment. Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer” is given a late night treatment, slowed down over moody, jazzy music before building in intensity with horns and Liza’s impassioned vocals. The third cover is “Great Gosh Almighty”, written by J Edwards, another gospel-influenced piece with excellent vocals from Liza and the backing vocalists, as well as some fine trumpet playing.
This is an enjoyable album with excellent vocals throughout, well worth checking out.
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