3.5 out of 5 stars
It took a few tries but Nashville, by way of Boston and New York, folk/pop thrush Longley’s new release finally displays her substantial talents. Elements that were present on earlier discs—a sweet, clear, sensitive voice, strong sense of melody and introspective lyrics, usually about love gone sour—all gel here for what is undoubtedly her strongest statement to date.
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the money raised is evident in the grooves. Even the most laid back selections have a full, clean, robust sound. The full but not slick production bolsters the singer/songwriter’s captivating stories set to tunes that will be running through your head after a single spin. She’s young but has apparently experienced a variety of not-so-ideal relationships, some of which are detailed here. And any lyricist that name-checks John Martyn as Longley does in the opening “Out of My Head,” where she talks to an old flame that is ultimately reignited (they listened to his records together), already has a head start.
Even when the subject matter seems cliché on paper like “Camaro”’s car/sex metaphors, Longley’s sure sense of musical dynamics and easy turn of phrases create songs that are fresh and imaginative. The thumping drums and ominous bass propelling “Skin & Bones” pushes the song into creepy territory echoed by the dark story of an evil person leaving a town where they “burned every bridge you crossed.” The melancholy “Memphis” finds the singer cautioning her lover he’ll never make it to the titular city because of what he’s leaving behind. Unfortunately that’s not the way it turns out, but the beautiful melody and catchy chorus will stick with you even as you sympathize with the singer’s broken heart.
Longley combines elements of blues, country, pop, rock, folk and even R&B (on the soulful “Never Loved Another”) with the ease and confidence of an artist who has found her voice. Every track boasts a memorable musical or lyrical hook that feels natural and organic on a terrific album that, while not her debut, sounds like the start of an immensely promising career.