Liz Carlisle
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Liz Carlisle

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The best kept secret in music


"More of Montana’s 2003 CDs"

One CD I recently received might not even be commercially available, but I wanted to mention it. Liz Carlisle is a singer-songwriter from Missoula who sang on her debut CD in 2001, “Thief in the Night,” while playing drums and keyboards.

Her latest CD is a five-song sampler that includes two songs from the debut, along with three live songs recorded in 2003 at Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass., where she is a sophomore at Harvard University. The accompaniment is guitar, but I don’t know if she’s the one playing it.

“Mother’s Love” is sung a cappella with a pure, soulful voice that reminds me of a young Joan Baez. The songs are in the tradition of ’60s and ’70s folk and she looks the part.

The sampler may or may not be available for purchase, but four of her songs are available for download at

- Billings Outpost

"Carlisle's Debut Showcases Her Distinctive Voice and Honest Songwriting"

You might see Liz Carlisle, senior, every day in the hallway. You might know that she's a straight-A student, was accepted to Harvard, and that she is the senior class president. What you probably didn't know is that she's also a talented singer and has just released her first CD, Thief in the Night. Carlisle's voice is distinctive. It's clear, soaring cleanly to notes in the higher range. But some of the best moments on the CD are when Carlisle is singing strong and low. Her greatest musical strength is probably the ease with which she sings. She writes songs about life in high school, friends, and how goals change. This subject matter makes her work stand out from most music one hears. It is nice to hear someone singing about what teenagers are really doing, especially when we can recognize pieces of her world in our own lives. Although Carlisle said it was "a little weird" to bare her soul in music, it was also healing. Her favorite is the last track, "Different Every One," which she compared to Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game," saying "It has all the stages of my life."
- The Lance

"A Breath of Fresh Mountain Air"

Not many 18-year-olds write their own songs, sing, and play drums and keyboard on an album they produce themselves. Liz Carlisle, a senior at Hellgate High School, has done just that. "Thief in the Night," her debut album, incorporates all these talents as well as those of her dad, Ray Carlisle, on acoustic guitar. David Horgan and Beth Lo, from the Big Sky Mudflaps, play lead guitar, steel guitar, and electric bass. This album is an insightful look at the life of a young woman full of dreams. One important aspect of "Thief in the Night" is its lyrical content. Treading within the boundaries of her own experiences, Carlisle does not try to reach beyond what she knows. From a caring song ab out a best friend in love with the wrong man, to a tribute to her mom, then on to an intuitive look about unexpected life turns, this album is full of innocence and hope. It is a breath of fresh mountain air. Carlisle has a voice and style like that of Joni Mitchell, clear and lilting, with the simplicity of a home-cooked meal. It is quite conceivable that with perserverance, Carlisle will become the woman she sees in her dreams.

- The Missoulian

"Missoula Woman Comes Home With a New CD"

Liz Carlisle's name is probably familiar to anyone who has kept up their Missoulian subscription over the past decade.

From her selection to Montana's All-State Band several years in a row, to her top placings at state and county science fairs and spelling bees, to the awards and accolades - Hellgate class valedictorian and class president, Who's Who Among American High School Students, etc. etc. etc. - Carlisle has seen her name in some 39 Missoulian articles and news briefs since 1991.

Not bad for a college sophomore who hasn't lived in Missoula since 2002, when she moved to Boston to attend Harvard University.

But she's back in town this coming week, performing all over the place to promote her newest CD, "Half & Half," a wholly fine collection of nine originals and one traditional tune.

Coming from a singer who's still not old enough to legally buy a beer, "Half & Half" is a remarkably well-rounded record, full of soaring melodies and soft-voiced intimacies, stories of love and longing, all revealed through the lens of Carlisle's glassy, sweet-toned voice.

Carlisle knows better than to try and write beyond her experience. "When You Turn 18" speaks to tribulations of youth - puberty, dating, running laps as punishment - with a directness and empathy that could make the song an anthem of awkward teens.

The record is Carlisle's second full-length release, following her 2001 CD, "Thief in the Night." That record was hailed upon its release as "a breath of fresh mountain air" by this paper; and that accolade befits the new record as well.

"Half & Half" also reflects an increased level of artistic sophistication from Carlisle. And it doesn't hurt that her voice has matured a good bit since her first record.

But hey, she's an artist and scholar whom Missoula has watched grow for years.

Remember this?

"We celebrate Christmas with presents and trees / We hang stockings on the mantle can't you see."

Those are a couple of lines from a Carlisle poem, published in the Missoulian back in 1991, when she was 7 years old.

Girl, ya come a long way . . .

Liz Carlisle will perform on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Shadow's Keep; Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. at Sean Kelly's; Thursday, May 20, at 8 p.m. at the Garden Bar & Grill in Bigfork; and Saturday, May 22, at 8 p.m. at Break Espresso downtown.

She'll also celebrate a CD Release Party for "Half & Half" at Rockin Rudy's on Friday, May 21, from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Missoulian

"Singer-Songwriters Raise Their Voices"

Singer-Songwriters Raise Their Voices
By all accounts the roundtable should have been over by now. The four singer-songwriters participating in the interview have been sitting for over an hour in Mather’s Senior Common Room, discussing in meticulous detail their experiences as participants in Harvard’s folk rock community. The humidity is forcing the air to an ungodly high temperature, but the conversation is showing little sign of wearing down.
Under the assumption that these four would prefer to be taking advantage of the pristine weather outside, the voice recorder is shut off to bring an axe down on the discussion. Somebody casually asks for the e-mail address of an on-campus songwriting mentor. Someone else makes an off-hand comment on his technique. And suddenly, the conversation has started up again in full force.

One of the interviewees, David A. Wax ’05, shakes his head slowly. With a knowing grin stretched across his face, he says, “You get four singer-songwriters in a room, and….”

But what this group lacks in brevity, they more than make up for in talent. Each has followed a different path to Harvard, and brings a unique perspective and set of expectations to the artistic community on campus. Matt V. Cantor ’06 picked up the guitar in fifth grade, and has since played a number of gigs at such wide-ranging venues as the Freshman Talent Show to Sanders Theatre.

Liz W. Carlisle ’06 has performed in clubs around her hometown of Missoula, Montana and has spent most of her time in Cambridge at Club Passim Open Mic Nights and managing the release of her new C.D., Half and Half.

Jamine J. Mahmoud ’04, who is also a Crimson editor, has “always wanted to be a songwriter” and in recent months has worked on organizing the Women In Color (WINC) Coffeehouse as a venue for performers.

Dudley affiliate and recent transfer student from California’s Deep Springs College, David A. Wax ’05 has been writing songs for over ten years and has released a full-length album, New Pair of Eyes.


The four are clearly excited by the opportunity to dissect the singer-songwriter experience at Harvard, and they immediately dig into the first topic at hand: the quality and availability of venues.

For many rising singer-songwriters, the best opportunities to showcase their talent are not on campus, where trend-of-two-moments-ago indie rockers and decades-old a cappella groups have long embedded themselves in the top venues.

“Student singer-songwriters find very few ready-made opportunities to perform,” says Liz Carlisle, noting Arts First as well as the Harvard Music Performance Series and the WINC Coffeehouse as notable exceptions. Instead, students often seek out nearby clubs and bars more receptive to less established talents. For many, the first destination is at the corner of Church and Palmer St., inside the brick walls of Club Passim.

Carlisle seems to have a particularly ardent relationship with Passim, and her voice brims with enthusiasm when describing the weekly open mic nights hosted by the club every Tuesday.

“By now, Passim is my home away from home, a community of people who support me and make me a better musician,” says Carlisle. She slowly became familiar with the fellow artists who frequented the club, collaborating with them during performances. One of those collaborators eventually became the producer of her latest album.

However, David Wax questions the notion that Passim is the ideal venue for more experienced players, recounting the more trying experiences he’s had there over the past year.

“They’re kind of like singer-songwriter training wheels, and can be frustrating for someone from a less metropolitan area who has already been playing full-length gigs for a couple of years,” says Wax.

Though he appreciates the receptive and attentive audience there, he finds the open mics are composed of, “usually a lot of amateur performers. If you want to hear something more engaging and inspiring, you’re better off going to Club Passim on another night.”

All four musicians feel that the lack of venues on campus is a major problem, and several are taking the initiative to create environments more appropriate for the singer-songwriter style. Matt Cantor has participated in events held by the Harvard Music Performance Series, a club founded by sophomores Amy R. Wong ’06 and Lisa A. Park ’06 to give students better access to Harvard’s concert sites.

Mahmoud has also organized the WINC Coffeehouse, a series of shows for singer-songwriters and spoken word artists to perform for a largely Harvard-based audience.

Mahmoud says that the two WINC Coffeehouses so far, both held in Winthrop JCR, have been huge successes. “We had a great turnout, over 100 people the first show, and at least over 70 the next show,” she says.

She credits this success to the events’ novel concept. “I think people responded well to the events because here really wasn’t a - Harvard Crimson

"Scott Alarik's Tips"

"Liz Carlisle is a promising local songwriter with a pure, welcoming soprano and a knack for smart folk-pop balladry."

- Boston Globe

"New Adds: Liz Carlisle"

Liz Carlisle is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who has produced an album that's remarkably good for someone who's only 20 years old. Half and Half, which refers to the influences of both her native Montana and her current home, Boston, is a good mix of smart originals and a well-sung cover of the traditional "The Water is Wide.

- Greg Grant, Online Folk Festival

"A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Ivy League"

Carlisle is from Missoula, Mont., and performs in a cowboy hat. She's also a Harvard junior studying ethnomusicology who writes a weekly folk column for the Harvard Independent and plans to write her thesis on folk music.

Carlisle, 20, who plays Sunday at noon, didn't set out on a folk path. Though she grew up singing with her father, she was, she says, "a gung-ho jazz drummer" and expected that to be her focus.

"When I left home and started to become my own person," she says, "I found writing was a real central part of my life. And I got sick of hauling drums around."

Which is how she came to play her country-tinged folk. Many of her songs deal with coming of age and have a strong sense of place. She released a CD, "Half & Half," in May.

This is Carlisle's first Campfire performance. Getting to know her fellow musicians "has been like an old-fashioned apprenticeship in the folk world," she says.

"I pretty much showed up in Boston with just my voice, the rugged individualism that emanated from the Montana landscape where I spent my first 18 years, and a dream. I didn't know a soul, but I already feel as at home at Club Passim as anywhere."

At Harvard, she's worked with Livingston Taylor, an artist in residence there. "She writes a really nice lyric and writes a great chorus," Taylor says. "Clearly, she enjoys the process. She represents somebody who's really committed to improving her craft. That's always fun to see."

Carlisle may continue on to graduate school or go into teaching, but whatever else happens, she sees herself performing for a long time. "I want to be singing when I'm 80," she says.
- Boston Globe

"Liz Carlisle: Half and Half (in French)"

Native du Montana, Liz Carlisle a enregistré un premier album en 2001 aprés avoir remporté brillamment un concours en public. “Thief in the night” avait été considéré comme une “bouffée d’air frais” par la presse locale et son interprète comme la nouvelle Joni Mitchell … Liz a ensuite quitté ses montagnes du Montana pour Boston afin d’entreprendre des etudes sur le folklore et l’ethnomusicologie, tout en fréquentant les clubs folks locaux et en s’y produisant à l’occasion. Son nouvel album, “Half and half” (Moitié-moitié), résume bien le parcours de cette jeune artiste, tiraillée par son amour de la nature et des grands espaces (le coté acoustique du disque) et l’influence de la grande ville (les premiers titres plus folk rock). Disons le tout de suite: les chansons acoustiques (guitare seule ou guitare-piano) sont nettement plus convaincantes et permettent de mieux apprécier le charme vocal indéniable de la demoiselle … Les texts (tous de sa plume) sont d’une grande beauté et d’une étonnante maturité. Suele reprise du disque: une version dépouillée de “The water is wide” où la voix limpide de Liz fait merveille. “Faces of strangers” (largement autobiographique) nous conte le désarroi et la solitude d’une étrangère arrivanat dans une vile inconnue. “Shilo” est une chanson d’amour consacrée à son chat, un texte d’une rare intelligence qui évite tous les pièges du genre avec une dextérité confondante, un bijou! On peut consulter les texts de ses chansons sur son site (voir ci-dessus) et également écouter des extraits. Un bien bel album qui deviendra vite indispensable dans votre discothèque. Liz sera de passage en France dans quelques festivals du 10 juin au 20 juillet (details sur son site).

- Trad Magazine


Thief in the Night (2001)
Half & Half (2004)


Feeling a bit camera shy


"Liz Carlisle is a promising local songwriter with a pure, welcoming soprano and a knack for smart folk-pop balladry" - Scott Alarik, Boston Globe

“‘Half& Half’ is a remarkably well-rounded record, full of soaring melodies and soft-voiced intimacies, stories of love and longing, all revealed through the lens of Carlisle’s glassy, sweet-toned voice.” – Joe Nickell, The Missoulian.

Less than three years since moving to Boston from Missoula, Montana, Liz Carlisle has already released two critically-acclaimed CDs, been featured twice in the Boston Globe, enjoyed a successful tour of the UK, and played such New England venues as the legendary Club Passim.

Carlisle self-produced her first recording in Montana at age 17, after winning a songwriting contest at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. A top seller at local record store Rockin’ Rudy’s, Thief in the Night was also well received by local critics. Missoulian reviewer Erica Parfit praised the debut as a “breath of fresh mountain air,” adding “Carlisle has a voice and style like that of Joni Mitchell, clear and lilting, with the simplicity of a home-cooked meal.”

Despite the success of the album, Carlisle did not play out much at first: she had gone to Berklee for jazz drumset, and had only been playing guitar for six months when Thief in the Night was released. (Carlisle supplies her own keyboard and drum tracks on the album, but her father Ray plays guitar).

She found herself forced to learn fast, however, when she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts less than a year later. An ethnomusicology student at Harvard, Carlisle frequented the open mics just down the street at Club Passim, where she found a supportive community of musicians who continue to help her hone her craft. Among Carlisle’s mentors is Livingston Taylor, with whom she played at Memorial Church this past spring.

Though she describes her music as “acoustic folk-country,” Carlisle’s collaborations with such disparate artists as folk-pop producer Russell Wolff and English fiddler Jonathan Potts have created dynamic fusions. Half and Half (May 2004), produced by Wolff, acknowledges the inherently hybrid nature of Carlisle’s Montana-bred/Boston-raised sound. The recording received several positive reviews and appears on the playlists of folk radio stations from France and Belgium to Alaska and Hawaii. Following tours of Montana and the UK in the summer of 2004 and several New England appearances, Liz plans another full touring schedule in 2005.

She is currently at work on her third studio recording, due out this year.

Selected Appearances:

United States
Club Passim
Johnny D’s
Cantab Lounge
Postcrypt Coffeehouse
Fox Run House Concert Series
Kendall Cafe
Stone Soup Coffeehouse
Organic Garden Cafe
Nameless Coffeehouse
Quincy Courtyard Festival
Sanders Theater
Arts First Festival
Leaf and Bean
Plough and Stars
Break Espresso
Rockin' Rudy's
Shadows Keep

United Kingdom
Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival
Leigh Folk Festival
Edinbane Festival
Priddy Folk Fayre
Bute Live Festival
Hoy-at-Anchor Folk Club
Sandbach Folk Club