Next week, Lydia Loveless stops at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, AZ. Having been born and raised in New York, country was the furthest thing from my radio dial; I was raised on a healthy diet of punk, alternative, and classic rock. I figured that giving her new album, Somewhere Else, a listen-to before the show would be a good idea. To be completely honest I had no idea in the least as to what to expect, so I put in my due diligence and jumped to my phone to see what others thought (because the best way to listen to a new album is to do so as unbiased as possible, right?). What I found is as follows:
1) Rolling Stone named her as one of the 10 Artists You Need To Know in 2014, claiming that she sounded like “Loretta Lynn and Patti Smith slamming shots at a Midwestern dive bar while cowboys and punks brawl out back” (which certainly grabbed my attention, though punks have no need to step outside for a good ol’ fight).
2) SPIN claimed her talent was akin to “Stevie Nicks singing lead on Born to Run ” (any invocation of The Boss is high praise).
3) NPR featured her on their Tiny Desk Concert series, so she is pulling in the cool kids cred.
Now I was more confused than ever: references to punk brawls, Springsteen, and public radio broadcasts don’t typically get thrown around when referring to a country singer. And let’s face it, NPR, SPIN, and Rolling Stone all agreeing on something is a relative rarity these days. So I finally put the album on and just listened for myself.
What I found and was not expecting, is that Somewhere Else is a 10 track long, genre-bending album upon which Loveless cuts her chest open and bares her heart. All at once her lyrics are frank and honest (“I just like it so much better when we’re coming to blows”), bitingly witty and self-deprecating (“When I was 17 I’d follow men around with my head jammed way in their ass/Oh, what I wouldn’t give to still be able to conjure up energy like that”) and, at times, explicitly, overtly sexual (she compares her despair-cum-desire to the slang term for oral sex on the track Head). On first listen, it was obvious that Loveless is not afraid to bluntly lay her soul down for the world to look upon, with no secrets hidden and no candy-coated bullshit flaunted about. While the album firmly is rooted in country (the twang of some songs and warbliness of the Loveless’ vocals unabashedly scream “Nashville!”), on more tracks than not, there are moments where the “country” completely drops away, leaving ripping guitar solo’s and run-away drums to take center stage and fill in the void when words simply fail. Over the entirety of Somewhere Else, Lydia Loveless isn’t seeking approval of her choices, but rather brashfully presenting her experiences with them to the listener, for better or worse, replete with battle scars, blow jobs, and bottomless glasses of whiskey.
Lydia Loveless will be performing at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix, AZ, on 4/22/15, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing her live. Tickets are on sale now and at the door, and can be purchased via Ticketfly here. To hear Loveless’s cover of Princes’ “I Would Die for You,” follow this link over to NPR.