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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Light touch, no guile in her heartfelt search

Lizzie West, likable and eccentric, brings charm to a familiar journey.

May 03, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

"These are the stones of my holy road," singer-songwriter Lizzie West told the audience Wednesday at the Mint, flashing a broad but slightly shy smile that reflected her music's blend of guilelessness and craft.

The New York City-born guitarist, 29, followed a winding but time-tested path to her major-label debut, "Holy Road ... Freedom Songs." It collects the wisdom accumulated while seeking lessons on the road, a la such personal heroes as writer Jack Kerouac. She busked in the subways of her hometown and traveled the country, eventually seeking out her muse, Leonard Cohen. After selling a couple of songs to HBO, she self-released the first version of her album, even whimsically handcrafting each CD cover.

On Wednesday, West's light, intimate touch kept her tunes refreshingly unpretentious, despite a potentially heavy mixture of stories, poetry and soul-searching. For just under an hour, she and her two guitarists, bassist and drummer shifted smoothly from country twang to bluesy rock to folky pop.

They played many of the album's standouts, including the appealing "Time to Cry," the Lucinda Williams-esque "Dusty Turnaround" and the funkier "Doctor." She also burrowed soulfully into Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," making it a heartfelt cry against the recent Iraq war.

A likably eccentric frontwoman, West swiveled her hips, played harmonica and conducted the band with wide arm sweeps. The journey she shared was perhaps what anyone looking for freedom, love and self might experience, but she had a uniquely effortless, and charming, way of telling the tale.

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