Lizzie West and her songs are going places, have been places, and are here right now. I Pledge Allegiance to Myself, the Brooklyn-based cross-country gypsy’s first CD for Appleseed, recounts her latest adventures on what she calls “the holy road” – the open-minded path to experience, ideas, honesty, and living life in the moment.
Lizzie’s debut CD, Holy Road, originally self-released and then reissued in slicked-up form by Warner Bros. as Holy Road: Freedom Songs three years ago, won her acclaim as “Breakout Artist of 2003” by AOL and Entertainment Weekly. Her songs were featured in the soundtracks of TV shows (“Everwood,” “Dawson’s Creek,” Third Watch,” among others) and movies (“Secretary,” HBO’s “Rock the Boat”). Radio airplay was strong, print reviews were positive, she was touring with artists like Chris Isaak. She was on the fast track to mass appeal. Though she was thankful for the opportunities, ongoing disagreements with her label over controversial song content and a growing disdain for the corporate machine, compounded by the sudden loss of both of her parents to cancer, made Lizzie realize it was time for a change, a course correction on her holy road.
As fans of Appleseed Recordings’ 2004 Beat Café release by ’60s folk-rock icon Donovan, Lizzie and her “musical collaborator, co-producer, boyfriend and blessing,” Anthony Kieraldo (a.k.a. The White Buffalo), brought Lizzie’s new collection of twelve original songs and two cover versions to the independent label dedicated to artistic freedom and social justice through music.
Recorded in New York, Nashville and Jamaica, I Pledge Allegiance to Myself is an intoxicating array of personal and philosophical experiences set to arrangements informed by folk, roots, hip-hop, reggae, gospel and contemporary Americana. One moment Lizzie is the playful, sexy seductress in the delightfully sunny reggae of “Rope Me In and Smoke Me,” the next she’s the jealousy-wracked accuser in “God Damn That Man.” She prays for a cleansing exorcism in “Take These Demons,” then defiantly issues her personal declaration of spiritual independence in the title track, incorporating “America the Beautiful.” In “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Woman (Thank You),” she gratefully thanks the life force within us all, then digs for hope beneath the pained life-during-wartime vignettes of “19 Miles to Baghdad.” Although troubled love is a recurring theme (“Brooklyn Bound,” “Of Course, My Love,” “God Damn That Man,” “Looking for Leonard Cohen, part 1”), her unquenchable belief in self-determination resurfaces on “I Can See the Mountains from Here,” “Reaching for Light,” “They Won’t Bury Us Till We Die,” and a haunted version of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Get Up, Stand Up” that incorporates a Lizzie-written poem metaphorically urging us to “let your string roll and your kite fly.” The CD’s other cover song is a bittersweet ride on Steve Goodman’s classic “City of New Orleans,” which becomes a bruised plea for unity in our fractured country.
ReviewsHer music is rooted and comfortable, but her best songs have a restless promise. “ The New York Times