Album Review - Liz Carroll / On The Offbeat

On The Offbeat is Liz Carroll's first solo album in 11 years.  Her duet work with John Doyle, a hectic touring schedule, multiple collaborations, Grammy nominations and more have kept her very busy. On The Offbeat brings her back to her dizzy best. Strong on self compositions and peppered with flashes of brilliance it showcases her boundless talent.  While you can appreciate the album the first time round,  on the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent listens more is revealed.  That for me is the sign of a good record.  You go back for more and you find it, appreciate it and absorb something new each time. The subtle complexity that is part of the Liz Carroll tune book is all here.  The way she is able to push her compositions that little bit more. A little nudge here or a shift of balance there that expands the boundaries to reveal new experiences. She also counterbalances this searching and discovery with uncomplicated and beautiful melodies when required.

One such composition is Jerome Lacey/Rogue's Reel where she keeps it relatively simple with Sean Óg Graham's guitar and Trevor Hutchinson's bass delicately supporting this beautiful melody. She never stretches it too far, because the tune is not in need of it. The same applies to a number of slower numbers including  Never Far Away written for her Dad and Tinsel that relives childhood memories through a simple melody with a "nordic feel".  The Ten Acre Waltz features Catriona McKay on harp and producer Seamus Egan on mandolin, and like the other tunes, its arrangement and delivery leaves nothing behind on the cutting room floor.  It’s all here to be enjoyed.  Lifting the tempo she describes The Fruit and the Snoot as a 7/8 romp inspired by an early morning battle with a grapefruit and a knife.  Its a complex and textured tune with harp, cello and guitar colliding in perfect harmony on a track that builds and evolves into the title track On The Offbeat.  Several listens are required, with this one track alone having more creativity than entire albums.  Producer Seamus Egan has no doubt had a hand in these arrangements and Liz describes him as a "supremely thoughtful and tasteful musician and producer." 

Elsewhere on the album Liz lets rip and turns tunes back and forth. Her team of musicians bring their own magic to match the mood and the tune with Catriona McKay's harp on W.T.'s 97th/Bar Hopping/Kelly's Roadhouse and Natalie Hass's cello on the title track adding depth and complexity. Sean Óg's guitar and Trevor's bass work are also remarkably inventive on nearly all of the tracks.  From the Grappelie infused The Wolf to the closing The Giant's Cave/Go Ahead, Back Up this is timeless Carroll.  Magical, multi-dimensional, inventive and at the peak of her creativity.

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Comment by Lyons Filmer on January 10, 2014 at 0:37

I followed the link for the doco "The Living tradition — official trailer." It looks and sounds awesome.

Lyons Filmer

co-host, The Celtic Universe


Saturdays, 6-8 pm Pacific

Comment by Lyons Filmer on January 10, 2014 at 0:35

good lord, the one track + the video are completely enticing. a 'must-have'..... Liz is always astonishing, and what great folks she has with her on this album........ the style of the video is also very tasty.

Lyons Filmer

host, The Celtic Universe


Saturdays, 6-8 pm Pacific

Comment by Solomon Foster on January 7, 2014 at 13:35

Crazy.  After a few days of listening, I picked out four stand-out tracks from this album to add to my set of "tunes to learn" tracks.  None of them is mentioned in this review!  (For the record, the tunes I'm trying to learn are "Barbra Streisand's Trip To Saginaw", "Fish On", "The E-B-E Reel", and "The Yellow Tinker".)

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