On January 16, the sacred and the profane were on display when Liz Brasher visited Standard Deluxe in Waverly, Ala. It was the first time the Memphis soul singer had returned to the funky printer and music venue since last spring’s 280 Boogie music festival.
Her latest album, “Painted Image” mixes modern takes on soul and r&b with rock and funk. Brasher’s lyrics often use religious metaphors to illustrate contemporary issues and feelings. Brasher grew up in a very religious Dominican household in Charlotte, North Carolina, and she even studied at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago before turning to secular music. So, she comes to this dichotomy honestly and it showed in her confident and spirited set.
Brasher wasted little time getting funky. Fronting a tight trio, she opened with a Stax-influenced instrumental, “Daytime Suzie.” From there she launched into “Blood of the Lamb,” the album’s defacto single, with Brasher picking the songs slinky, circular beat with ease. While on record it’s easy to hear how great a singer Brasher is, her guitar playing really stood out on this night. She’s a versatile and instinctual guitarist, with chops to carry the band into any sonic territory she needs to go.
Songs from “Painted Image” factored heavily in the set, with “Hand to the Plow,” “Body of Mine” and “Cold Baby” all getting extended treatments. “Cold Baby” with its Otis Redding-inspired chorus, showed off Brasher’s compact, powerful voice, as she teased out the title’s words.
For the encore, Brasher did a truly stunning version of Mahalia Jackson’s “Elijah Rock.” Accompanied only by her drummer and a tambourine, she belted out the gospel tune with conviction, telling the sold-out crowd it was her favorite song of all time. By that time of the night, she was preaching to the choir.