Tuesday, August 11, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1396: Lera Lynn

I felt a bit off all day today for some reason. Fortunately, I had Bruins playoff hockey to look forward to…except I didn’t. Instead one of the longest games in NHL history (Columbus and Tampa Bay went into five overtimes) went on for so long that the league eventually postponed my game until tomorrow. Damn.

Disc 1396 is…. Have You Met Lera Lynn?

Artist: Lera Lynn

Year of Release: 2011

What’s up with the Cover? Lera decides to put on eye makeup while driving. I want Lera’s eyes to be as alluring as the next guy, but this just seems unsafe.

How I Came To Know It: I heard Lera Lynn first on the True Detective soundtrack, and then we saw her live in concert in Nashville back in 2015 (see my review at Disc 792 for details). When I was at that show I picked up most of her back catalogue from the merch table.

How It Stacks Up: I have four Lera Lynn albums. Of those four, I would put “Have You Met…” in at number two

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

“Have You Met…” is Lera Lynn’s most country album, but even here, early in her career she is already well on her way to sidestepping genres and labels.

The country elements are strong, principally in some of the melodic structures, such as the slow sway of sexy numbers like “Fire & Undertow,” where she puts on her best seventies croon. There’s even the occasional appearance of pedal steel on the record, but there’s a lot more going on besides.

There is also a sultry, soulful sound that would be more at home in a jazz lounge than a county fair. Where she puts the two elements together is where the magic happens. “Bobby Baby” is a dirge about its hard-luck title character. The guitar has that Nashville reverb, but there is something else going on that evokes “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”; an atmospheric menace to the song’s structure that pulls at something deeper.

On “Good-Hearted Man” she stays old-school country with a chorus that evokes Loretta Lynn, but with verses and reverb guitar that lurks in the back alley behind the local rock show. Lynn fully absorbs her character. He isn’t a good person but he’s singularly unable to see that, even as he digs the hole deeper with back-handed justifications like:

“Everybody fucks around
Everybody makes choices that ain’t sound”

Or put another way, “it ain’t me babe – it’s everybody.”

Every song is well served by Lynn’s wonderfully smoke-filled voice. It is breathy, but with a compelling power in her higher register. It isn’t perfect, and there are times when she doesn’t fully enunciate her consonants or curls them in weird ways. At those moments, the spell is broken, but then she climbs into a whispered head voice and wins me right back. When she goes into a falsetto singing of “it slipped by you” on “Happy Ever After” it is like magnetic north to the regret of another bad decision caught in song.

There are other times when the lounge tunes don’t fully draw me in, like on “Paper Anchor” which felt like it took a while getting where it is going, but even on those the emotional intent is there if you let it get into your bones. I always felt that no matter how much sadness and mystery Lera Lynn delivered, there was an even deeper ocean below the one I was currently floating in.

 ynn also does a brilliant cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I Tried To Leave You” which features a big bold guitar, and an almost barroom grit. The mixture of regret and desire is a perfect fit for the album’s originals, and while it would be impossible to like it more than Cohen’s original, it lands pretty much even.

Like my last review, this record was once again short, at just 10 songs and 30 minutes. Just like with THICK, I was still enjoying it after multiple listens, happily diving deeper and deeper into Lynn’s emotional world, and knowing I wasn’t going to find the bottom.

Best tracks: Happy Ever After, Gasoline, Bobby Baby, Good Hearted Man, I Tried to Leave You

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