Saturday Soundtrack, The Times We Live In
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Liz Vice’s road to redemption

In honor of Black History Month, I am exploring the work of musicians of color who are reclaiming their musical heritage while taking us forward musically and socially. The first three in this year’s series featured Allison RussellKaia Kater, and Joy Oladokun. For the MLK weekend, I featured the work of Ruthie Foster. Today we’ll celebrate the music of Liz Vice.

Liz Vice is a musician best known for her gospel, soul, and R&B-infused sound. The Bluegrass Situation (BGS), among other reviewers, has noted her debt to earlier gospel-based civil rights advocates such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sam Cooke, Mavis Staples, the Staples Singers, the Ward Sisters, Aretha Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson.

We often forget how much religious music was infused in the counterculture back in the 1960s, and as the BBC mentions in a great article about the era, “The music of the black church was infusing and inspiring the political consciousness of folk music; gospel was no longer just for the religious but the foundation for much ‘60s protest.” 

Vice’s breakthrough album came in 2015 and is entitled, There’s A Light. Raised in Portland, Oregon, and now living in Brooklyn, Vice — as Glide noted in a review —

…has performed with artists such as Joss Stone, Blind Boys of Alabama, Boz Scaggs, and Lake Street Dive. No matter how large the venue, Vice’s genuine approach to her artistry and playful interaction with the audience makes everyone feel as if they are at home sitting on the couch, witnessing a friend sing their heart out.

Here’s the title track from that first album, performed during the Portland Soundcheck sessions.

2018’s Save Me was Vice’s next album, and the title track is a powerful song that blends her beautiful voice with the bass of the piano and the calming, ethereal sound of the strings. It was featured on the CBS series The Equalizer, which generated another group of Liz Vice fans.

In this temporary world, I tired out my tongue / Empty conversations with the enemy’s lies / Which way to go but onward, soldier, know we leave inside / So like a storm, I’m moving forward / Like an eagle in flight [Chorus] Save me from myself / Release me from my own hell / Save me from myself / Release me from my own hell

The song Fancy Feet celebrates “the hope and love of living plainly without expectations or affectations”

I clean up really nice when I need to / I’m no princess crystal slippers ain’t my thang / Oh I feel fancy when my feet are runnin’ wild and free.

The official music video is a partnership with Vice and her friends at Bridge of Hope Africa Ministries (BOHAM). As Vice says, after BOHAM graciously agreed to participate, “in return I thought it would be super fun to allow people to see the beautiful work that BOHAM is doing in Uganda.”

BGS described Vice as someone “who is bringing her own vision of social justice and the powerful, playful bounce of soul back to modern religious music.” You can experience that vision in See the Day, which came out in 2020 and shows Vice bringing those social justice issues to the forefront of her work.

I wanna see the day when justice rolls / Like a mighty river floods out of control / May that day be today when together we say / Let justice, let justice roll

This Land is Your Land is one of my favorite songs, and I wasn’t sure that I felt a rewrite was necessary. But as Vice told Glide:

“I sat down and re-wrote lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land Is Your Land” with my friends Paul Zach and Orlando Palmer just one day shy of the Unite The Right Rally one year anniversary. The purpose was to write lyrics that told the origin story of America. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate being American but one thing that must first be talked about is the history. Healing can’t begin without first acknowledge the gaping wound created by the colonization, the mass genocide of the Indigenous people, and the enslavement of African slaves. There is still much work to be done,” says Vice.

And after I listened to her moving revision, I understand Vice’s important perspective on the need to hear origin stories in everything — even our iconic songs.

I want to end this sampling of Liz Vice’s music with her latest release: Promise Land.

So I’ll press on until we make it to the Promise Land / I have been up the mountain and back again / Oh my eyes have seen the glory and I heard God’s plan / I’ll press on until we make it to the Promise Land.

Vice has always had a gift for storytelling that gets at the heart of living. As No Depression magazine noted,

The road to redemption is filled with uncertainty, doubt, self-deception, pain, and anguish, and even when you find salvation, there’s no guarantee that joy and love will erase completely the pain and doubt….Liz Vice walks the stony road to redemption, delivering tunes that celebrate the victory over the illusions that hold us down while acknowledging the heavy weight of self-doubt and missed opportunities for loving others that we bear.

Join her on this walk!

More to come…


This entry was posted in: Saturday Soundtrack, The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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  1. Pingback: February observations | More to Come...

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