Lizabett Russo has been on the radar for several years now, first featuring in these pages via a tiny, but memorable gig in the Assembly Roxy basement back in 2015. This, her fourth album, is another intricate, avant-folk affair, characterised by softly interwoven instrumentation and the beautiful birdsong-like rise and fall of her voice.
It’s possible to hear reminders of other ethereal folkies – Joanna Newsom springs to mind – but that’s not to deny Russo her own distinctive style. She herself is Romanian, but settled here in Scotland as a teenager, and both countries reveal their influence. Colo Sus Pe Un Monte and Valuri Si Ganduri are in her native tongue. There’s also a lovely version of trad Scottish folk song The Water Is Wide, Russo’s voice flying high over a subdued fiddle and guitar.
But things are more complex than that. You can’t pin a style or sense of place on the album. The opening of Depending is suggestive of Southern Africa and there’s an Andean feel to the string-picking on Colo Sus Pe Un Monte, possibly a reflection of Russo’s recent travels in Ecuador to visit the Amazon rainforest. I Was Young When I Left Home is not a version of the early Bob Dylan gem, but an autobiographical piece which shares the same plaintive air and sense of dislocation, until half-way through when it twists into something approach art song.
There’s a sorrow detectable in the music. In pre-publicity, Russo speaks of her concern for mother Earth, and this angst bubbles through each piece. Sometimes the tensions are made explicit: “I don’t want to escape / I want to release all this anger” (Release), sometimes less so. The eco-mindedness of tender ballad Tiny Seed (“planted into the darkest soil”) might seem apparent from the title, but it also speaks metaphorically of personal growth. The lullaby-like closer Valuri Si Ganduri (Google translate suggests “Waves and Thoughts”) is gentle, but sad, in the way lullabies are.
With a group comprising Graeme Stephen, Oene van Geel, Udo Dermadt and Aidan O’Rourke on instruments as varied as cello and clay pot, she has a fine setting for the jazz inflections of her voice. While I Sit And Watch This Tree is an album to lose yourself in.