Most of today's country crossover artists have forgotten that, at its core, country music is more about storytelling than attitude. However, glimmers of hope still exist, as newer performers take the genre back to its storytelling roots with nothing but a few instruments and a strong voice. Indie singer-songwriter Lizzie Huffman is one such artist.
With gracefully simple storytelling, Huffman is like the campfire friend who always brings a guitar and spurs sing-alongs; only better. Lyrical stories of hidden love and heartbreak grace her 10-inch vinyl debut EP, Lizzie Huffman and Her Brother Band.
Huffman's record reminds you that uncomplicated need not mean monotonous. "My signature style is so simple yet fleshed out at the same time," she says. "[Producer] Phil Peterson and I experiment with so many different instruments and percussions, making sure each song has the elements it needs to be a great piece on its own."
A Seattle resident and native, Huffman attended up to four concerts a week while growing up. Yet, Huffman credits her older brother Kirk with inspiring her musical adventures.
"I bought a guitar because of him, I own the records I do because of him, and that shaped my whole music path."
Kirk's band, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, also played on the EP, hence the title.
"I was very thankful to have those boys with me for the whole ride, because they are all brilliant. A lot of songs on the record ended up turning out to be something different than what I had in mind, but so much better because of their magic."
On "Country Song Number 2," Kirk's vocal part subtly echoes Lizzie's soothing bluesy voice. Arrangements are stripped down, keeping the focus on Lizzie, which is somewhat reminiscent of Elliott Smith, one of her many influences.
"I think his storytelling is brilliant," she says of the late songwriter. "The way he mixed honky-tonk with other genres, no one else did that. If you do it now, people say, 'You sound like Elliott Smith,' but, really, it's unique to him."
In an unusual marketing decision, Huffman and her label, the Denver-based Suburban Home Records, pressed only 300 copies of her 10-inch EP debut — although the label announced last Friday that free downloads would be available to the first 500 people to take up the offer.
"It's hard to sell something that everyone can find for free," explains Huffman. "So, not only does vinyl sound better, it's also a novelty, limited-edition piece that people have to own. That way, it can pay for us to continue making music."
Huffman is convinced the vinyl resurgence is here to stay. And with her EP garnering excellent reviews, it's clear there's more vinyl on the way — specifically a full album planned for late spring release.
Meanwhile, Huffman notes on her Facebook page that she's thinking about moving to Denver at some point in the next six months: "I was there for 36 hours and I can't wait to get back. Not only is Suburban Home Records based there, the people in Colorado are so kind and welcoming that I can absolutely see myself living there."