2017 CD REVIEW
WARNINGS & WISDOM (PATHFINDER).
JEN SURFACES FROM A MIZE OF DEEP WATER
“When my time has come/ love don't you send me/ down into a hole wearing my best dress/ a coffin ain't for me, love set my soul free/ down there in Deepwater, take me back to Deepwater.” - Deepwater - Jen Mize.
When Sunshine Coast import Jen Mize debuted on Nu Country TV on December 3 with Deepwater - a protest song against the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline - she had genuine genetics.
Georgia born Jen wrote it in honour of her grandmother Ann Locklear - a member of the Lumbee Tribe - and one of her Native American ancestors.
But life didn't imitate art for Jen.
The outgoing administration of Democratic President Barack Obama said it would reconsider permits issued for the pipeline's route near tribal lands, delaying the project by several months.
But that move was quickly reversed after the inauguration of Republican President Donald Trump in January.
Trump signed an executive order that reversed a decision by the Obama administration to delay approval of the pipeline.
The tribe also lost several lawsuits aimed at stopping the pipeline.
But fighting the system is not new for Mize who hails from a family of Georgia cotton and North Carolina tobacco farmers and Appalachian moonshiners.
She was raised on a ranch on the outskirts of Las Vegas where both parents worked at the Sahara Casino.
“I moved to Australia to find myself - that age-old tale,” revealed Mize who met her Australian husband in 2004 when she was performing on a liner in New Zealand and moved here in 2006.
“And, for the first time, who I am as a person started to dictate who I am as an artist.”
Mize's colourful journey included singing in casinos and hypnotist's assistant at MGM, New York, Venetian, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay and enrolling in Las Vegas Academy - a performing arts high school.
While there, her choir sang at the White House and she performed as a soloist in a Christmas program for Hillary Clinton.
Later that year, Mize received a scholarship to Boston Conservatory's Musical Theatre.
“I was truly able to see the world. I visited and performed in more than fifty countries on every continent but Antarctica,” Jen revealed.
“I quad biked across ninety-foot sand dunes in Namibia, rode horses in Iceland, held a sloth in the Amazon, and even drove a dog sled team on a glacier in Alaska.”
WARNINGS AND WISDOM – MILITARY MUSCLE
“So much left of the world to see/ not as dumb as he is naïve/ he won't hear a single word from me/ warnings and wisdom/ with all his friends going overseas/ wants an education, can't afford the fees/ have no idea there's no such thing as free.” - Warnings & Wisdom - Jen Mize
“It's definitely about the American military industrial complex and how they take advantage of anybody that doesn't come from wealth,” Mize revealed.
“I have a lot of family that served in the military so there's a lot behind that song for me. Once that song was written it became a concept album or sorts.”
It precedes the romantic redemption duet Forget Her with Toowoomba born Duncan Tombs who operates Filmery video at Green Point, West Gosford.
It's no surprise to find prolific Golden Guitarist Tombs exposing his vocal skills on Forget Her and Over The Mountain .
Mize, like perceptive peers with international exposure, has maximised the value of video clips to expose her music.
“My husband and I had worked hard on a few videos so we still wanted to release them,” explained Mize who filmed her clip for Elijah at Ewan Maddock Dam near her Sunshine Coast home with a cameo by her Golden Retriever Hurley .
She also filmed other earlier videos in desert ghost town Bode in California, Stillhouse Hollow Falls State Park near Mt Pleasant in Tennessee and the south island of New Zealand.
“I think getting those out there has helped pave the way for the new record,” Mize added.
“Part of the journey is writing new songs, coming from a different angle and not repeating myself too much.”
And, of course, choosing the right producer - Nicholson.
In April last year Jen took 26 songs to Nicholson's NSW Central Coast studio and they chose 12 to fit the project.
“It was like being in the lair of a musical mad-scientist,” Mize added.
“We had in-depth pre-production discussions (which were really fun, as we have a lot of the same taste in music), but once we had our direction I just stepped out of the way and let the man make his magic.
“Once I got into writing this new album I knew it was going to go in a more gutsy direction than the first one and the best approach might be to not do a full band album again. I needed to go someplace I was unaware of and without my own expertise and Shane Nicholson felt like the perfect fit for it. We have a great musical vocabulary together. I could describe the feel I wanted with references and he got it straight away.”
So, like some of the producer's other projects the album title reflected a concept album.
“When we started looking at the songs I realised a lot of them were warning songs and that made sense to me,” Mize added.
“I was thinking about that and came across the phrase warnings and wisdom and I kind of liked that but there was no song that was specifically that, it just fitted the songs that I wanted to include on the album.”
MIZE GETS HIGH ON A LITTLE GREEN
“You go to the cupboard and I'll go to the drawer/ you sip a little whiskey while I smoke a little green/ then we'll go out and paint the town/ like no-one's ever seen/ I know it's just a band aid/ just some short term relief/ but when you're working like a dog.” - A Little Green - Jen Mize.
The singer reaches back into her Georgian rural roots to source the characters in Up In The Holler.
There's the survivors of coal mining and its health issues and others who have spent time behind bars.
And, of course, there's the ever present FBI spies using the not so secluded cover of hiding in trees.
Mize also exploits a reptilian metaphor for a venomous vixen in Viper.
But there's also a sense of regret in the romantic ambush that catches the female victim off guard in Ships , with Nicholson extending his multi-instrumental skills to backing vocals.
Equally morose is album finale There He Goes where Mize urges her character not to plunge into the quicksand that claims the male character.
Yes, definitely, a welcome warning for those who fall under negative influences in life and love.