Liz Green releases new album Haul Away! next Monday (14 April), but you can listen to record in full right now on Qthemusic.com. Not only that, but the singer-songwriter has written us a track-by-track introduction which you can read below. For more head to Facebook.com/lizgreenmusic.
Liz Green’s guide to Haul Away!
This is a love song. Just that. There’s a couple on this album. Some I didn’t really know about until I was listening back. “Oh… maybe it’s about that…” Maybe it’s not. Of course. It’s drone-blues. There’s the swell of a doom organ in the background, like the distant whirring of a helicopter come to rescue you from the battlefield. It’s played on a 100 year-old banjo my friend gave me in exchange for three sets of IKEA shelves. Good deal I think. It’s pretty hard to play. But I made it (after two hours of trying)!
I’m really happy how it turned out. This album is even more live than the last one. We did as much as possible with everyone together, singing and all. To get all the way through this song without totally losing the plot or hitting any (really) wrong notes… I was amazed. This is the song where all of those themes come into play at different times. There’s The Fates From Greek mythology. Spinning out the thread of your life, and the challenge of escaping those threads. And the sea themes… On the bit about the boats, where it changes rhythm, I imagine people working on a ship, pulling up the ropes of the anchor, hoisting up the sails. Sea shanties were initially sung to fit in with the rhythm/pace of the work taking place. It’s an echo to that.
Rybka (or Little Fish in Polish) began by me joining words together to try and say regular things in a slightly different way. “Rot-gut” for alcoholism. “Red-sun” for tired eyes. Some pre-existed when I searched, like “seeing-eye” for guide dog, some not. It’s a fable. I borrowed my friend’s surname when I found out what it meant. It fits the song – kind of a wee bit eastern European sounding – and is a little less cutesy than ‘little fish’. Though that’s the essence of the story; the little fish getting lost in the big pond. A boy who tries to do right but always seems to end up on the wrong side of the glass, on the outside looking in. Like the crow in the song, “Will you let me in this time?” Perhaps he drinks his troubles away, his morning reflection and his “red-sun eyes” telling him all is not quite right here. A combination of being born out of time (which is an idea I keep coming back to) and just pure bad luck. There’s the idea of escape… and movement again, like in Haul Away! But the guy doesn’t know when or where he must go, just that he must do something now, before the wind changes and he’s stuck there.
River Runs Deep
This is a creepy night-time nursery rhyme interlude. I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up from sleep and whisper-singing tunes into my iPhone in the middle of the night. Sometimes I can remember doing it, sometimes not. This is one of those sleep fragments.
Where The River Don’t Flow
It’s a woozy wonky circus tune. Something like that. A celebration of life, a drunken, noisy wake. “Follow me if you care to go…” The chorus is a call leading the ‘dance of/towards death’ – at the end of a party or particularly rowdy wake. Death is where life is not, that is, “where the river don’t flow“, where there is no water. Just as the end of the night is when all the bottles are drunk dry and you head into that black dreamless sleep. In Dante’s Inferno he describes the Devil right at the bottom of hell, in a stagnant pool of water. Impotent. Water doesn’t flow. Life dried up. That had something to do with it… or it’s an image I sometimes see when singing it. Cheery eh? It’s a happy song, really.
Empty Handed Blues
It’s part travelling song, part apology for the people I neglected while travelling. There’s other things in there too. I either don’t want to share or can’t quite figure them out yet. It was three songs. But I realised they all had the same chords and pretty much the same words. So three became one, as it were.
I’ve been telling a story before this song when I play it live about touring. That you go away for a tour all excited and bright eyed. And you come back grubby, and hungry, and drunk, without some or all of your clothes. Without any CDs left, but without the money to show for it. Sometimes without the van you went in (don’t ask!). And when your friends and family ask you what happened, you’re unable to put it all into words. You look so exhausted and broken that your friends and family wonder why you do it. But you’d do it all again. So who’s going to wish you well this time?
Into My arms
My favourite Into My Arms story happened in its very early days when I was on tour with my musical brother George Thomas. We played a pub in Glastonbury to about five people. He was sat in front of two old ladies, who’d clearly just popped in for a half of ale, and chanced upon some odd music. And when I was playing this song he heard one whisper to the other, “Do you think it’s about paedophilia”‘ It made me chuckle, these two ladies speculating such dark things about probably my least dark song. It’s an anti love song really. About rejecting the comfort of love, even though the option’s there and the arms are open wide to welcome you in. And you’re a bit on the lonely and raggedy side and could probably use some. The thing about the cracks and the bears heads is from an AA Milne poem that stuck in my head from being very small. Sometimes you carry these small superstitions with you… “I must take care not to step on the cracks in the pavement”… “Why Liz?”… “Because the bears will get you…oh… That’s probably not true is it?” Actually, I suppose it is a bit dark after all. But nursery rhyme dark.
Island Song is the first of two completely brand new songs on this album. I confess to listening to a lot of Baby Dee and Thelonious Monk, and stomping about incompetently on the piano. But this song came out of it. I’m learning as I go along. It’s a classic escape story. Alcatraz style. I imagine it in black and white cine-film. Possibly with Jim Henson puppets. Our poor protagonist in the prison on one island. Being called back to the mainland. It’s a place you constantly revisit in your nightmares. You map the dream land and learn how to get out. Eventually. I like the horns that come in second verse – like ships that are sailing past on the horizon. Just out of sight for a rescue. Lots of fun to sing and play. It’s funny because it’s one that was never played live before going on the record. I’m having a lot of fun with it now. Maybe I’ll record it again in five years when it’s had some settling in time.
The beginnings of Little i started on a piano at Howard’s (my manager’s) house. I’d been up all night. I was too nervous to sleep as we were going to Germany that day to start our first tour there. I’d rented the van. Turns out I’d rented the most enormous mini-bus known to man, just for the four of us. Anyway Little i was just a nice soothing refrain to play. That night at our first gig I played it in the middle of the set just so I wouldn’t forget it. At the end of the gig a woman asked for her money back because I looked so tired. Apparently she quite liked the music but didn’t like my face! Little i (Eye) is the smallest island off the coast of West Kirby where I grew up. The others being Middle Eye and Hilbre Island. You can walk out to them at low tide across the sands. Seals bask in the caves. And there’s some good stories of smugglers and witchcraft. But you’ll get trapped out there if you stay too long. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
This is a mythical love story, loosely based on The Odyssey. A call through the ages. Penelope waited twenty years for Odysseus to return home. He got an epic poem named after him. She got this song (and an excellent book by Margaret Atwood called The Penelopiad). Imagine meeting someone after all that time. How does it feel? Can you make up for what’s gone before? It’s where loyalty and fidelity meets infidelity and inconstant-ness. I think that’s it really. I can’t think of any funny stories.
The last song on the album and last song we recorded. Last song I finished writing. I actually finished writing it in the back of the van on the way to the recording session while everyone else was listening to Black Sabbath. I think we were all suitably tired and wanting to go home. It’s recorded entirely live, with all of us in the one room. It’s a lullaby for the end of the world. What happens if you are the last person on earth left who can speak your language? All your family and friends are dead, and you have no children to pass on the words to. It’s based on a short article from Reuters, many years ago, that reported a woman crooning to herself at the side of a road in Bikya. The last person to speak in her tongue. Hence the title. Cheery. I’m preoccupied with how far words can take us though. They are my trade. But they also place limits on communication. What’s left if they take your language away? I always think that there’s something you have to make up for in pure emotion / empathy – that’s the music part. Not everyone will understand the words, but everyone understands laughter and tears and pain and love (well, most people do). Ah man. Makes me sound like an idiot. But that’s the general gist. Humpty Dumpty said “when I use a word it means exactly what I choose it to mean, no more, no less.” I always think that might be nice. To have that power. To be exactly understood.