Liz Frame and the Kickers: Sparrow In A Shoebox

by Griff Stevens

Backed by her band, The Kickers: Pat Chamberlin on lead guitars, Sean Hennessy on bass and Pete Whitehead on drums, Frame has a tireless energy about her career approach and enthusiastic writing.  The turning point for Frame was the death of her cherished mother in 2007, it was the moment Frame put her entire focus on her artistic endeavors. Sooner, the debut, appeared in 2011 and offered some of New England’s premium sessions players Duke Levine, Kevin Barry and Bobby Keyes. Frame’s second outing the Justine EP, released three years later and confirmed this was not a fluke, the same shrewdness and competence of writing effervesced each track.

Now in 2018, her new album Sparrow In A Shoebox cements Frame as a lasting contributor to the fabric of American acoustic music.

Kicking off with the title track signals Frame is assured in her songwriting, placing the title track first is really the tale of, she means business.  Many compare her to Lucinda Williams or Linda Ronstadt, I have to say I feel more of a Cowboy Junkies vibe off their album Pale Sun Crescent Moon sound. “Sparrow in a Box,” has that same moody vibe with jangling guitars and deep lyrics that resonate in a lonesome way.   “I Used To Be Your Slave,” has as distinctly bluegrass sound complete with mandolin, great harmonies and dobro.  Frame almost channels Patty Loveless on this cut, her voice is commanding and resonate and the hook laden melodies shimmer.

Speaking of channeling “I Don’t Worry No More,” digs into the Carrie Newcomer lane, a slow and simmering tune, that Frame is simply magnificent on, her voice is hauntingly beautiful with introspective moments of doubting pain, and lilting choruses of anthem like resolution.  Her voice digs into the merit of the lyric and delivers it with resounding angst.

The album reads like a well-penned kaleidoscope of talents.  Frame’s songwriting is well-oiled with a craftsmanship of sturdy relevance. Her voice is better than ever, if that is even possible.  If you have followed Frame and the Kickers you already know this is as solid as it gets, but Sparrow in a Shoebox takes this group to a whole new level of inspired.

Tracks to sample first: “I Used To Be Your Slave,” “Grown Children” and “I Don’t Worry No More.” The song to take a chance on is “Little Brown House.”

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