A lot can happen in four years which, for an artist approaching their prime, might as well be a lifetime.
Since the release of Real, Lydia Loveless has been the subject of a documentary, got divorced, moved from her native Ohio to North Carolina, came forth with allegations of sexual harassment at her former record company and started her own label.
For fans and artist alike, it has seemed like an eternity. With the release of Daughter, (Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records), Lydia Loveless returns with songs of trials and tribulations and the detailed self-analysis of someone one who has been performing publicly for nearly half of her life.
“I’m the one who wanted more, now I’m just sitting at home,” she laments in “Never” summing up the sense of weariness and displacement that pervades most of the album. “Never” begins with a synth line that feels like we’re going to hear Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour drop in. As the song’s tempo picks up driven by drummer George Hondroulis, Loveless delivers a confessional repeating incessantly. “I carry around this pain, I live with all the mistakes I’ve made,” as if singing the line over and over in rapid succession could make everything go away.
The album was produced by Tom Schick (Wilco, Norah Jones, Mavis Staples) and recorded at The Loft in Chicago. If the poppier feel of Real felt transformative, Daughter takes Loveless to another level. When Loveless opens the album with “Dead Writer,” one of the album’s best songs, it’s like imagining the singer having an out of body experience peering down as she tries to exorcise her demons.
For Loveless whose voice can fill a room, this is like a symphony of sadness. The subtle wails of steel guitarist Jay Gasper and the strains of Loveless and Todd May’s Fenders are a soundtrack for a place where emotional resolution is elusive. “I don’t want to live in this world but death is not what I’m looking fors
These are songs from the inner sanctum. Against Hondroulis’ charged drumbeat underpinning “Can’t Think,” Loveless contemplates life and love, questioning God and revealing an inner torment that feels like the sound of madness. “Daughter” is measured and sleek as Loveless ponders her place and wrestles with the ambivalence of contemplating mid-life. Loveless’ voice follows the ethereal and moody soundscape of “Don’t Bother Mountain” just as it does in the contemplative “September” built around the piano, a prominent element in the new record.
In “Say My Name” it’s as close as she’s come to a song that sounds like a Bob Dylan melody, a composite of “I Shall Be Released” with strains of “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Positively 4th Street” thrown in. In its bridge as her voice rises and she infuses her trademark self-questioning, it sets off a frenetic and emotionally charged finish. In all of its expansiveness, her band has never sounded better.
Daughter is like a journal looking back and measuring the cost of it all. In the infectious funk groove of “Wringer” (a little bit on the sunnier side of “Heaven”) there’s clever wordplay throughout.she sings “All that singing has put me through the wringer,” she sings in a nod, perhaps to all the road miles logged that began in her teens, as well people’s expectations of her as an artist.
In a delightfully lighthearted line in “Never,” Loveless espouses self-effacing humor calling herself a “country bumpkin dilettante.” Over the last decade, she has written a body of songs that stand with anyone, often reinterpreted in new ways that add new context over time. She has always been difficult to pigeonhole and prone to experimentation. Daughter takes that a big step forward.
Many of the songs here were already written two years ago when Loveless took her band on the road. It’s hard to say Daughter is a pandemic record but it’s melancholy and solemnity feels like a companion for pandemic times—and her best album yet. http://www.lydialoveless.com/