"I Don't Know Why" by Izzie DerryReview
If it seems like ages since I was able to review an Izzie Derry release, that's because we are nearing the third anniversary of her last one. In fact the launch for her ‘Take It From Me' EP was the last gig I attended before lockdown hit us.
Obviously that sudden suspension of musical activity hit her career momentum as it did for so many other people, but as anyone who knows her will imagine, she managed to make the most of opportunities. After a long period of figuring out & then delivering livestreams while gigs were not possible, Izzie turned her attention to creation. She'd been part of the zeitgeist for some time, favouring singles & EPs as the best way to both afford recording and also ensure each & every track received its due attention. However during the period of career inaction & with extra time to reflect, news songs seem to have flowed from her mind prolifically, so she launched a successful crowdfunding project for a full album and the taster for that, a brand new single entitled "I Don't Know Why" is the first public fruit of that process.
Izzie being Izzie, she also took the chance to upskill herself still further & hone her own production talents: she has not only self produced her new material but I am aware of some exciting collaborations she has been getting involved with, supporting other unique talents.
It's an interesting exercise, spooling back to her previous EP to reflect on how the new material relates to it: is there a sense of progression & momentum resumed or has the hiatus taken her in new directions entirely?
I'm going to equivocate on that one as I can detect both in the new song. Before "the break", Izzie had been making paradigm shift development in her music: outward signs being working much more with a full electric band & playing a Telecaster as much as her acoustic. She has been musing recently as to what genre she could describe her music as: I fully take her point that it's no longer as easy to call her "folk" as was the case in earlier years. I think that's a real positive as genre-clinging would, in my opinion, be more of a constraint on any artist and Izzie is clearly on an exciting evolutionary road as an artist where artificial boundaries play no part.
I think this characteristic had emerged three years ago & as she added richer new arrangements for her music to her repertoire, it also brought more to the fore an "angry Izzie" side to her work: with intense songs calling out the injustices she saw in the world joining the more contemplative & optimistic side of her personality: so I can detect a road from say "Fire" to "I Don't Know Why".
There is nothing wrong with passion as far as I'm concerned & she has unlocked that side of her to great effect
One of the interesting aspects of the music is that it's arranged with a complexity which belies its apparent simplicity. Izzie very kindly provided me with a full set of credits (in addition to herself on vocals, acoustic guitar and bowed electric guitar, there are regular collaborators Tom Hammerton on electric guitar & Herbie Walker on keyboards and backing vocals, Matt Boyes on bass, Joe Hall on drums and a string section of Gabija Kasiliauskaite on violin & Alicja Bodnar playing ‘cello: you may remember that Gabija also appears on Izzie's "In A Year" single from 2020) and yes, on playing the track back, you can hear the elements, but the first impression is of a much more stripped back song.
A very substantial reason for this effect is the sheer intensity of the lyrics which dominate what your ear is initially drawn to. This is, as I say, the smouldering Izzie of "Fire": passionate and quietly furious with the subject of the song, who has very clearly "done her wrong". I suppose one might vaguely expect an artist developing out of her teens & experiencing the ups & downs of life to mature their subject matter to include material of this nature (though anyone hearing it would deplore whatever she went through to inspire it), but what impresses is that the Izzie we have loved previously is still recognisable in there: there is righteous anger for sure & she doesn't hold back in telling the subject precisely what she has been put through by them, but the language is expressed articulately: well thought out and aimed with precision rather than abusive. The icing on the cake is the moral high ground she has placed herself on: anger yes, but perhaps more sorrow and the pay off that though treated badly, she has learned & will grow stronger by it: a victim of this bad behaviour but not a generalised victim. A bit like Kirsty MacColl's "Wrong Again", one of her main complaints in hindsight was that she was "perfectly happy" until intruded upon in this fashion.
As it happens, since this is apparently one of the few songs on the album written on guitar rather than piano, I've heard her play it live (at our Summer 2022 "Hush!" event) so I can vouch for its power as a live entity. It was possibly hearing it in a simpler solo arrangement which distracted me at first from focusing on the full arrangement here.
However, another reason may be that in terms of her production skills, Izzie has pulled off an excellent job with what must be the most complex arrangement she has yet worked with (it's worth noting that Izzie regards her upcoming album as effectively her debut, rather than 2017's ‘Goodbye' given that one's home recording: however it does remind us that she has been holding ownership of her own sounds on record for some years already). She takes full responsibility for the production, which she recorded with Luke May (who mixed it): the mastering being by Sam Clines.
The arrangement is, if anything, tending towards the torch song aspects of the jazz spectrum for the more intense sections, interspersed (to rather startling effect in the juxtapositions: which is quite an effect) with fuller, more (for want of any better genre suggestion) folk-rock passages
To sum up, there is no way, when ‘Take It From Me' came out, that anyone, Izzie included I presume, could have imagined its successor to be what "I Don't Know Why" is. Is that a bad thing? Well, no, it isn't. What has finally emerged has generally taken the direction she was already going and enhanced it. The incidents inspiring it, while regrettable, have created a work with emotional intensity & truth which on an artistic level, elevate the song beyond what we might otherwise have received. The time in between has been used well by Izzie to hone a complete set of new music which her planned schedule would probably not have allowed for & I think we can also factor in time spent developing her arranging & production skills. As her audience, we probably regret the wait but consider it worth it for what we've now received: I think Izzie's philosophy too favours seeing opportunities & benefits over negative aspects, so I hope she too is pleased with what she's come up with. Once this song gets out there across the media, it's a really strong calling card for her talent & should enable her career momentum to pick up as it left off.