Liz Frencham Love & Other Crimes record review by Ian Dearden

Record Review by Ian Dearden

Savouring a new Liz Frencham album is like devouring a box of artisan chocolates. One part of you wants to make each chocolate last a week – the other part of you just wants to scoff the entire box in a single sitting. And so it is with this album – one part of me wants to play each one of the tracks on repeat so I can savour and devour each tiny detail for a week. The other part of me just can’t wait to hear each new track, to dive into the narrative and musical arc of this gorgeous masterpiece, and hear it as one stunning, panoramic whole that entirely captures and envelopes me.

By now, I guess you’ve already worked out that I absolutely and unashamedly LOVE this album, so let’s get out a few disclosures upfront. I’ve been delighted and enthralled with Liz’s musical skills over many years – as bass player, songwriter and singer – from her time with the late lamented Jigzag, through various bands including Dev’lish Mary, Jimmy the Fish, Frencham Smith and Paper Mouse, through her extraordinary range of roles as sideperson to Fred Smith, John Flanagan, Jodi Martin and a raft of others, and her occasional forays as a solo performer. So enchanted, in fact, that Liz provided all the bass parts, as well as backing vocals to my debut album, and took all those songs to a different level.  And on top of all that, I’ve just had the privilege of sitting front row through a series of solo gigs at the 2019 Woodford Folk Festival, at which most of the songs on the album were given their live debut, to a rapturous response, with the fabulous support of Josh and Parvyn Bennett.

This album was laid down very quickly over a couple of months at Dog and Bear Studio (the home studio of Liz and her husband Steve Vella in Trentham, Victoria) and, apart from Pete Fidler’s guitar, dobro and mandolin overdubs and Lindsay Martin’s violin on Cellar Door, it was recorded and produced entirely by Liz herself. Technically, Liz has done a fabulous job – her vocals are exquisite, the double bass is fat and thick, and the supporting instruments sit easily, gently and intimately in the mix. Of the thirteen songs on the album, there is one cover (Everything Is Free by Gillian Welch & David Rawlings), two co-writes (Dirt Coloured Glasses with Tim Fatchen and Don’t Get Too Close with Matt Blick) and the rest are from Liz’s pen alone.

With the exception of Pete Fidler’s lap steel, the album is entirely acoustic, but gloriously widescreen and enveloping, which is a huge testament to Liz’s arrangement and production skills. These are indeed songs that handsomely repay repeated listening, with deliciously enjoyable details revealing themselves each time, especially if you get the chance to hear the album, as I have, in a studio on a decent set of speakers.

And so to the songs themselves. Forgive me, but I want to take you through the entire album!!

The opening track, Bringing Heaven Down To Hell is a delightful and joyous love song, which features fabulous dueting from Tanya Bradley’s fiddle and Josh Bennett’s mandolin.  The Cellar Door, written in response to a song writing challenge, is delicately but deliciously erotic, with John Flanagan’s harmony vocals a sheer delight over the instrumental harmonies of the fiddle and mandolin. Dirt Coloured Glasses encapsulates musically the never-ending but very human struggle between crippling self doubt and the truth that we are all precious and deserve to be loved.

My Dad is Liz’s heartfelt tribute to her late father, capturing his extraordinary capacity to build almost anything – and how, although it would be built to last, it would invariably be ugly!! That last line, “I miss my dad”, hits me in the heart and brings me to tears each and every time I hear it.

Cactus poses the classic question – can you love someone who is “prickly as all hell”. The answer, of course, is yes – but only if you dare to take a risk. And love always comes with risks, as Liz warns in Don’t Get Too Close – deceptively wrapped up in Pete Fidler’s entrancing dobro playing.

For a change of pace, the accapella Skating Sally (with harmony vocals from John Flanagan and Carl Pannuzzo) warns, metaphorically, of the dangers of skating on river ice that “only froze last night” and urges the listener to “think light”!! Love can be a dangerous game.  Two Perfect Hours opens with an entrancing descending chord structure, courtesy of Josh Bennett on acoustic guitar. It’s a paean to the joys (and sorrows) of stolen love, this time wrapped up with glorious guitar and fiddle playing and (like much of this album) topped with exquisite vocal harmonies from John Flanagan.

Inconvenient Song is a full frontal love song, with a protagonist as ‘cryptic as a window pane’, laying out her full array of seductive stratagems, verse by verse. Irresistible, I would have thought!!

The title song, Love And Other Crimes is a sweet, sweet slice of bluegrass, with fabulous interplay from Josh Bennett’s mandolin, Jacob McGuffie’s guitar, Pete Fidler’s dobro and Kat Mear’s fiddle. Worth repeating half a dozen times, because it whizzes past so quickly and there is so much to enjoy!!

Out Of My Kitchen reveals Liz’s bluesier side, with superb instrumental interplay from Pete Fidler’s dobro and Josh Bennett’s mandolin. One And One is yet another testament to Liz’s mastery of the blues, drawing from that bottomless ‘love lost’ well which underpins so much of the lyrics of the blues.

The album concludes with a heartrending reading of the Gillian Welch track from ‘Time (The Revelator)’, Everything Is Free, which neatly wraps up the ever present dilemma for modern musicians seeking to earn a living from their craft, in an age where everybody expects that the music will be free. For music as wonderful as this, I’d pay anytime.

Catch Liz live any chance you can get – this albums translates superbly to live performance and so any solo gigs are absolutely not to be missed. You can buy the album, and find out much much more about Liz at

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