Liz Durrett’s fantastic new album, Outside Our Gates, is a major step forward for the singer-songwriter. Produced by Crooked Fingers’ frontman Eric Bachmann, the album is full of lush and sturdily-built tracks, songs that mirror the depth of emotion that Durrett’s lyrics get across. No longer does Durrett sound like a woman alone, and it makes her songs strain to bursting with melody and tense energy. Perhaps the album’s greatest strength is its ability to be lush without sounding too big. The strings on “Wake to Believe” never overwhelm Durrett’s breathy delivery. The horns on “Wild as Them” hint at the crazy shine in her eyes, rather than bleating at us insistently. The shuffling waltz on the aching “In the Eaves” is crowded by crumbling loops of grinding guitars notes, letting us know that when Durrett sings, “Don’t fear our slightest move”, that maybe we shouldn’t believe her right off.
The full sound on those tracks makes the moments she chooses something simpler far more effective. Closer “The Sea a Dream” starts with a quietly plucked guitar, until a choir erupts to sing with Durrett, a choir that sounds populated by lost and pining ghouls. “The wind is a dream, laid out for you,” they sing, their voices beautiful but weighted with the knowledge that none of us can follow the wind, that we stay still as it passes us by. All through Outside Our Gates, Durrett’s voice is an Irish whisper. She attempts some sort of privacy, but she’s got too much presence to be ignored. And the stories you overhear her tell through the dim light and smoke and sparse-crowd din of the barroom, they’re sad enough that you wish you could ignore them, but there’s a truth in her words that keeps you listening.