Album Review – Liz Cooper & The Stampede: Live in Chicago (2019)

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Genre – Americana, Nashville indie, Folk Rock, Psychedelic
Spotify Listeners – 290k
What to Expect – Stylistic voice; having fun with the crowd; progression of energy from beginning to end; fantastic guitar when she lets it really go 

My fiancé and I both love Liz Cooper, which is a rare thing for us as our musical tastes rarely intersect. We both saw her live at Forecastle in Louisville (2019) and I was pleasantly surprised that months later we were both still listening to Cooper & the Stampede. However I later discovered that where Liz Cooper is concerned, we’ve only reached a partial exception to our separate music tastes. She liked listening to her studio recordings, specifically her album Window Flowers. It was smooth and easy listening. Beautiful lyrics set with nice backing instrumentals, something pleasing to the ear that took her to a place of peace. I loved her live EP Live in Chicago, a smattering of sonic overtones that made me forget where I was or that breathing was necessary to life.

This short, live EP can really be split into two acts. The first act features more of what my fiancé likes: two of her more popular, standard fare Nashville/Americana songs, The Night and Mountain Man. She does add to these songs, though. She takes these beautiful, melodic tunes and draws them out, stretching each element to explore what can possibly be done to expand on the studio versions. As a fan of her studio work I really appreciated these two tracks, and if the rest of the album was more of the same I would enjoy myself very much while listening. But something else kicks in. 

Whether it be a time release on the effectiveness of a hippie speedball or an inability to hold their true selves in any longer, Liz Cooper and the Stampede decide that they’ve prepared this group of Nashville-indie rock fans enough to blast them into the stratosphere. What starts of feeling like another song in the same vein of the others, the band stretches it into a 10 minute sonic joyride. Dalai Lama and the final track, Hey Man, showcase some of my favorite guitar work in the last 10 years. Liz Cooper is in complete control. Not many people play guitar like this anymore, and if they can they don’t choose to. Most are focused on technical supremacy and showing off their chops while dancing around scales. Her technique is proficient, but her tonal control and inventiveness are exceptional. Cooper is focused on taking you somewhere.

He didn’t overuse it, but occasionally when Neil Young played with Crazy Horse he would take the audience on some of these sonic journeys, but Cooper is so much better at it that it feels like we should be comparing him to her. She takes a Hendrix-like approach to using feedback, has perfect chemistry with her band, and just goes really hard. I love this album and come back to it all the time. She is playing at Railbird in Lexington this August (2021) and I’m really upset that I have to miss it. I’ll be on the lookout for when she comes by next. Her website says that she’s changing things up with her music, and I’m interested to hear where she takes her studio recording. But her live show, that really seemed like it was her true self shining through, and I won’t miss that again.