REVIEW: Lucy Isabel Flexes Her Lyrical Muscles on ‘Rambling Stranger’

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The history of music is littered with references to being a rambler. You kind of have to be a rambler if you are going to devote yourself to playing music and spending a big part of your life. Rambling Stranger is not only the title of Lucy Isabel’s new album, it is also a good description. According to her, “there’s always a part of me that’s looking to chase down something new, and it keeps me moving.”

It doesn’t take long to notice all the layers in the opening track “How It Goes”. The organ, guitar, and drums in the intro of this song combine to create a sound similar to Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. Then Isabel’s vocals come in and you realize this is what it might have sounded like if Judy Collins ever joined The E Street Band. The lyrics in this hit pretty hard too. “I’m by your side through the ebbs and the flows. I’m taking your hand and we’ll see how it goes.”

Layers of sound is a recurring theme throughout the album. “Something New” is another great example. At the beginning of the song, you only hear banjo and Isabel’s vocals, which are similar to Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. This song also features strong backing vocals and percussion that is powerful, but not overpowering. You can’t help but notice how beautifully arranged this song is.

It’s not easy to pin Isabel to any particular style. There are elements of country like in “The Road Ahead”. There are also elements of rock, including some sounds that bring The Band to mind. However, the one constant is the strength of the lyrics. “False Prophet” is a particularly poignant example of her abilities as a lyricist. In it she sings, “You call me what I am: a false prophet of adulthood. I am bold, and I am broken, and the world is at my feet.” The lyrics are kind of enigmatic because despite her singing that the world is at her feet, there is a vulnerability that comes through. It may take a couple times through before you can sing along with this one, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself transfixed by the lyrics.

Perhaps there are no lyrics on the album more powerful than in “Lucky Stars”. Isabel sings “I slept with my guitar in my arms last night because I didn’t want to think I was alone with you not home.” In fact, it’s not just the lyrics that make this song powerful. The stark melody – with just acoustic guitar and vocals – makes the accompanying story even more powerful.

This album is a collection of 10 beautifully complex and wonderfully arranged songs that highlight the lyrics and vocal abilities of Isabel. Rambling Stranger will be available everywhere on June 14. Order your copy here.

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