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  • Cy White

Lizz Wright: Holding Space (Live in Berlin)

It's almost unfair to put a live album against studio work.

More unfair is when that live album is from the incomparable Lizz Wright.

She's quietly been a force in music for the better part of 20 years. Ever since her debut, Wright's voice has been a beacon of light in so much darkness. This live album from Berlin is an exquisite example of her incredible vocal range, her distinct tone and her ability to captivate without having to do much but stand there and sing. The inflection of Wright's voice, the way it wraps and bends around notes paints a very vivid aural image of who she is as a performer and musician. One can almost imagine it: her eyes closed, head tilted back, hands loosely framing the stand holding her microphone.

Of course, a vocalist's performance is only as powerful as the musicians behind her, and her band does an impeccable job matching her note for note. Bolstering her voice but never drowning her out or overtaking the message. Their raucous rendition of "Walk With Me Lord" is some of the most soul-stirring gospel I've heard in a long time. It's poignant where it needs to be, but more importantly it makes you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. That's ultimately what this live performance is about. Getting the audience to believe in something higher, holier than where they are.

Holding Space is an intimate look at a singer who's never quite gotten the respect or recognition she deserves, which often tends to be the case for vocalists who straddle the lines between traditional genres (jazz, blues, folk, gospel) with more contemporary musical tropes (elements of rock in composition, tinges of R&B in vocal performance and musical choice). What we get here is simply a woman singing. Standing ten toes down into the earth and projecting all the passion and conviction of someone who knows who she is, believes in it and holds on to it without wavering or shying away from it.


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