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"Joe is my imaginary friend/alter-ego."
Liz Green is a voice from another time. The U.K. singer has a welcome sound with inflections that are seductive and expressive and a delivery that makes every word count. Her new album, O Devotion!, is a bit of Tom Waits, a bit of Kurt Weill and certainly an original. And though that record doesn't come out until February 7, you can listen to its leadoff cut, "Hey Joe," right now.
All we knew when we heard the song was that this wasn't the "Hey Joe" made famous by Jimi Hendrix. So we asked Liz Green to share with us the origins of her "Joe," from the music to the story the lyrics tell:
"'Hey Joe' is one of the simpler songs on the album. I enjoy the repetitive nature of lyrics in the blues songs I was listening to — two the same and then one different — but I never knew how to play blues. I taught myself guitar and this is what I came out with. It's my interpretation of that style of storytelling/songwriting. Needless to mention, melodrama and death are things I like to play with thematically," she says.
"Here is a simple bitter tale of love. Although. It probably never was. It's a soap opera. In blues form. Man meets woman. Falls for her. Woman takes advantage, steals money and runs off. Man takes her back. She wrongs him again. Until she is in turn wronged herself. It's a modern fable, really. It's the relationship between the giver and the taker. And how both can be damaging in the end. The Joe in the story thinks so little of himself he always surrenders to a person who is no good. And his lover thinks so little of herself that she cannot be honest.
"Gender is unimportant. It could be any way round. That's just the way it came out."
As Liz tells it, the character of Joe has an involved back story of his own.
"Joe is my imaginary friend/alter-ego," she writes. "Kinda an everyman character. His full name is Starling Joe and he possesses the head of a bird and body of a man. It casts him outside of society. Outside of time really. I use him as a conduit to experience different ages and times and places and situations. His is a constant presence through past, present and future. Drawing it all into relevance to myself ... helping me to experience and understand. That's maybe putting a little too much on his bony shoulders. But he carries it well."
Learn more about this release on PIAS America.