Lilly Hiatt/Lately/New West
3.5 Out of Five Stars
Intended to convey “photographs of time” according to the artist herself, Lilly Hiatt’s Lately was written and recorded in lockdown as, in her words, a means of preserving her sanity at a time of disruption and uncertainty. It works well in that regard. Both pointed and personal, the new album is conveyed with clarity and confidence that never appear to falter despite any real or imagined obstacles that may lie in the way.
Of course, astute songwriting resides in Hiatt’s genes. Her dad John is a reliable interpreter of everyman’s circumstance, given to narratives that resonate with a soulful sheen. So too, over the course of four previous albums and a career that had her accorded honors as Emerging Artist of the Year from the Americana Music Association, Lilly has successfully moved from beyond her father’s shadow and established a formidable career of her own doing. With Lately, she comes full circle, sharing songs that run a gamut of emotion, from the quiet assurance of “Simple” to the tangled entreaty of “Been” and the more assertive sounds embedded in the title track. Hiatt doesn’t mince words, and on a song such as “Stop,” she makes clear her desire to find a bond that will allow her to go forward towards the future.
So too, for a set of songs centered around times of dire distress, there’s a remarkable cohesion that binds the album together overall. In nearly every case, Hiatt projects herself as the calm in the midst of the storm. “Peach” and “The Last Tear” surge forward with an easy assurance, and though “Ride” and “Been” seem somewhat tentative by comparison, they remain perfectly poised. “Face” with its pervasive pedal steel, comes across as a jaunty country-flavored romp, all upbeat and infectious.
Ultimately, Lately is the right album for the present time, one that conveys a guarded optimism that suggests there’s hope on the horizon even as we wait for the clouds to part. It marks a certain maturity that underscores Hiatt’s authenticity as both an artist and individual, and the strength she possesses when it comes to propelling that presence forward. Ultimately, Lately becomes a timely testimonial to all she’s achieved thus far.