17 May 2022

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Tess Liautaud - Album Review: Tess Liautaud

12 May 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Oh, the people of Christchurch have got music and soul everywhere, and yet another singer/songwriter emerges with an astonishingly mature debut and an international pedigree.

Tess Liautaud is French, American and now Kiwi. She’s played with Springsteen if the photo is real, and her new, self-titled album is out on June 17th.

It’s a jewel from the get-go, as a seductive acoustic intro foreshadows a sultry voice with a touch of husk, but quintessentially Americana, and a Lighthouse emerges, then rocks along gently like a light shining in the distance and bobbing on the ocean. Clever guitar peels to a mini crescendo and it all adds up to a strong start to a very strong album.

Still Learning almost repeats the formula, but we’re far from tired yet, and the voice which starts soft and fuzzy and distant breaks out sharp and clear as the song develops and builds. Still learning that every day is a school day.

Stay Ashore (new single released today) lifts the tempo a little, and the more it changes the more it stays the same (Alphonse Karr said that), but already the pervasive reality is that these are well constructed songs, and confident in their length, with lyrics which are a little obscure but the underlying themes are self-reflections in the abstract. Or tackling spiritual and emotional health in the context of journeys both real and figurative, perhaps all in the journey towards self-actualisation.

We move into single mode with Breezy As “a little cut up, a little confused” but this is a strong song, and if you toughened it up, it’s like Courtney Barnett on a hayride. Some special Dicky Betts guitar. Don’t let anyone else get in the way, here comes Tess.

A couple of gentle folk songs with Tess picking, and especially the sultry Sway, before a trumpet breezes back in with a happy, jazzy feel and Tui Song with a whistle can only be Kiwi but she’s getting her hands in the dirt and you can taste it which defines the song as Americana. But that’s ok. We love Americana, especially the kiwi version. On the Cusp is another single and touches again on mental health and then the album starts to finish in epic mode, with Sore Feet Walkin’ a classic troubadour tribute, playing blind from town to town, the roads hard travelled, hard yards, “getting tired of seeing people I don’t wanna meet”. Sweet harmonica adds to the perception that this is a Dylan tribute, which is then realised in the final cut, Where I Stand Now which segues into Like A Rolling Stone to bring us to a resounding conclusion.

There are touches of Amanda Shires in the soft, Margot Price in the harsh, and our very own Jamie McDell in the husk, which is a fine recipe for a voice. And Sublime production from the boys in Kurow, and fine musicianship from Tess’s band, the Little Hearts, with some tasty guitar work from both Jacob Smith and a legendary former Chicago punk called Ken Bronowski who has mellowed into an academic luthier but adds some splendour from his Illinois studio.

Tess Liautaud is touring the South Island with fellow Christchurch troubadour Adam Hattaway (without the Haunters) during May. This will be a great show folks.

And did she really play with Springsteen? Find out in my interview series 'It’s a Wrap with Roger' here.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Tess Liautaud

Tess Liautaud is a singer-songwriter, spending her early years between the eastern city of France, Strasbourg, and New York, including a few years covering herself in music in Liverpool in the UK, she then became a regular in the music scene in Paris, where she performed nightly spending a couple of years honing her performing craft, before making the move to New Zealand.

“Tess may be a thousand of kilometers away from home but the universal music of language has given her plenty of grounding in the land of the long white cloud ”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tess Liautaud


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