REVIEW: Lera Lynn’s “Plays Well With Others” is Shared Diversity


Traditionally, country duets pair a man and a woman. Even as Alt-Country and Americana pushed in new directions, they’ve respected this format, as with Iris DeMent’s duets with Steve Earle and John Prine. While duets involve shared vocals, they are typically written by one artist.

Lera Lynn’s Plays Well With Others (Single Lock) skewers these conventions. Most of the songs on the record feature Lera paired with a male artist, but there are also tracks that pair her with Nicole Atkins and with the husband-and-wife duo Shovels and Rope. The original songs—all but two of the nine songs are original—are co-writes.

Lera has a wide range of partners on Plays Well With Others. While all Americana artists, there’s a 40 year age range among them, and they stand at different places in their respective careers. It speaks well of Lera as a person that she can both maintain a relationship with Dylan LeBlanc, who opened for her, and approach the legendary Rodney Crowell at the airport baggage claim.

Lera’s partners come from places as physically and culturally distant as Texas and New Jersey, and they have distinctive sounds. The resulting album is diverse, yet anchored by Lera’s voice. The tight 30 minutes of this album contains the Orbison inflections of Lera’s pairing with Atkins, Peter Bradley Adams’s folk pop, the simple country of John Paul White, LeBlanc’s ethereal quality, Rodney Crowell’s unmistakable voice and writing patterns, the energy of Andrew Combs, an upbeat but eerie duet with JD McPherson, and a unique interpretation of “Wolf Like Me” with Shovels & Rope.  Get your copy right away, here

Credits: Lera Lynn (vocals, acoustic and tremolo guitar, banjo, percussion, string arrangements)
Duet Partners: Peter Bradley Adams, Nicole Atkins, Andrew Combs (also whistle), Rodney Crowell (also acoustic guitar), Cary Ann Hearst, Dylan LeBanc (also acoustic guitar), JD McPherson, Michael Trent, John Paul White (also acoustic guitar, mbira)
Additional Instrumentalists: Caleb Elliott (cello), Ian Fitchuk (drums), Jeremy Gibson (claw-foot tub, drums, percussion, trap kit), Robby Handley (double bass, organ bass pedals), Viktor Krauss (double bass), Todd Lombardo (banjo; bass; acoustic, nylon guitar, and 12-string guitars; mandolin; piano; pump organ; string arrangements), Kimi Samson (violin, viola), Ben Tanner (piano, vibraphone), Reed Watson (drums)

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