Jazz UK Magazine, November 2003.


UNFORGETTABLE, funny and often painfully honest, Liane Carroll's solo gig is now captured on Billy No Mates, a jewel of an album recorded live in the studio this summer. Closer to Nyro than Norah, this is a collection of American Songbook gems, brilliant originals and Greenwich Village confessionals by the likes of Tom Waits and the singers' favourite, Joni Mitchell. Incapable of the empty, glamorous vocal gestures that adorn many of her contemporaries' work, Liane's readings of standards such as 'In the Wee Small Hours' and the opener 'It Never Entered My Mind' are bluesy and honest, fairly prodding the listening heart with a voice that's tender, angry, shameful, hurt and always soulful. Liane's right hand often merges with her voice, producing (as George Benson did with the guitar) an exhilarating chorus of scat or, as on 'A Foggy Day', an entire chorus scatted without piano, reminiscent of some of the great '70s Sarah Vaughan live albums. Her improvising on her own 'Fly Little Bird' sounds like Sanborn. Joni's 'River' begins as a whispered conversation over unfolding hymnal piano and ends in self-reproach, the singer not afraid, at all, of showing how, like speech, the voice often cracks and falters. The album's emotive overall landscape is kept in check by some well-placed swingers: 'Don't Blame Me' would satisfy any Krallster with its playful phrasing and 'A Beautiful Friendship' is driving and insistent. Carroll's greatness is marked by the stand-out track, 'Picture In A Frame', where the spartan Tom Waits lyric is transformed into an urgent declaration of love, now lost, upsetting, honest, very beautiful and beyond all vocal category. I've waited years for this album. (Ian Shaw)

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