Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Some artists switch bands and producers as their career progresses. Others prefer to stick with an established cast of musical partners they feel comfortable with. Lydia Loveless belongs to the latter group.
The singer-songwriter’s fourth full length and third for Bloodshot since 2011 finds her paired again with producer/engineer/mixer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Viers, who has worked with her from the beginning. She also keeps the majority of the band from 2014’s successful Somewhere Else and even records in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
Those looking for the snarl and raw country-rock bite of Loveless’ previous albums may initially be disappointed to hear that she has shifted away from that approach. Rather, this is firmly in singer-songwriter territory … i.e., emphasis on personal lyrics, an introspective slant and a generally subtler musical palette. Many of the rough edges that were the singer-songwriter’s calling card have been sanded down, allowing the words, complex and often compelling melodies to become the focal point.
Backing singers and detailed, more intricate arrangements on songs such as “Longer” moves this closer to softer California rock, with echoes of Fleetwood Mac on some tracks. On selections like the light rock of “Heaven,” the adjective “slick” wouldn’t be out of place. Entries similar to the darker toned, slightly dissonant ballad “Out on Love” find Loveless walking away from a love she was drawn to (“you give me every reason to fall out of everlasting arms”) and sounds like something Stevie Nicks might latch onto. Loveless loses some of the grit that fueled her prior work in exchange for displaying her sensitive side. The tunes explore relationships on the rocks with her typically disarming honesty in particular on “More Than Ever” where she sings “But if it’s self-control you want/ I’d have to break all of my fingers off/ because it’s harder to take every day.”
Melodies take longer to reveal themselves and choruses don’t have the natural hooks Loveless has crafted before. Which just means you’ll need to spend additional time exploring the songs, mulling them over, absorbing the lyrics and letting their more elusive charms sink in. What hasn’t changed is Loveless’ voice that balances a weariness and wariness about love, laying her feelings bare with an emotional honesty new to her. On the title track she’s waiting for a boy who’s going to beg her not to jump off the roof and concludes “I know exactly what I want to do.” That could be a potent metaphor for this change in direction that shows Lydia Loveless growing into a mature, perhaps more commercially accessible songwriter as her career continues to evolve.