Bird on a Wing

One night after a show in Portland, Oregon, some lo-cals insisted on taking me and the rest of my band across town to the fabled Crystal Ballroom to experience firsthand the venue’s famous “floating” dance floor. But while the spring-loaded, bouncing hardwood beneath my feet was indeed a thrill, I was more impressed with the musician onstage who was causing the swells—an angel-voiced frontwoman with devilish guitar skills named Liza. Armed with an early-’70s Strat and captaining a Marshall half-stack, she looked as comfortable and dangerous with the weapon in her hands as Patty Hearst did in that infamous photo of her wielding a machine gun. Liza was refreshing because, at the time, the only estrogen on rock radio seemed to be the mass-marketed folk-pop of Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and other café-friendly Lilith Fair fare.

Now, in 2006, when women are rocking and punking out more then ever, Liza again bucks the trend. After years melting faces with Zuba and guest-starring with countless bands (including String Cheese Incident), the Colorado songstress has released Bird on a Wing, an entrancing collection of songs that mostly eschews the harder rock/funk riff-rock approach that put Zuba on the indie-rock map, in favor of the soothing, smoky timbres of jazz piano, pedal steel, violin and viola, hushed horns, brushed snare drum, and, of course, Liza’s jangly acoustic and electric

guitars. As always, it’s the siren sound of Liza’s soothing voice—melodic to the last, and with a perfect, relaxed vibrato—that sells the music. There’s a certain zen in her phrasing. Like Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, Norah Jones, and other great singer/musicians, Liza projects an inner calm that keeps the listener planted comfortably in the center of her captivating world, no matter how wild her musical surroundings. (
—Jude Gold