Let’s address the elephant in the room before I move on with this review. Yes, I’m a Country blogger. Yes, this site is called “Country Music Minds”. Yes, I know that Lydia Loveless has never exactly been strict country. You know what? I don’t care. It’s my blog, and at the end of the day, I’ll talk about what I want to talk about.
Lydia Loveless has to be one of the most interesting artists in recent memory. Arguably the most prominent artist on Bloodshot Records, she garnered wide acclaim for her 2011 debut album, Indestructible Machine for mixing country music with a punk like attitude. 2014’s Somewhere Else found her pushing in a more mainstream direction, albeit with some mixed results. Granted, those results came from Lydia still trying to find her true sound more from any outright bad songs, at least that’s what it seemed to me. So when I heard news that her latest album Real embraced a more Pop/mainstream sound, I was interested to hear how it would turn out and whether or not Lydia had made the album she truly wanted to make.
One of the most surprising trends in 2016 has been independent Country and Americana acts pushing away from Country to embrace other sounds. Robert Ellis, Elizabeth Cook, and Chris King are some great examples. While some country critics have expressed their sadness at the turn, to me it really doesn’t matter as long as the music is good (which all of the above mentioned names are. Heck, all of them received positive reviews here). I really don’t care what genre lane an artist chooses as long as it’s what they truly want to do. It may not be my cup of tea, but I’m not going to wave my fist and ask to have them back in country music.
You could file Lydia Loveless in with those artists moving away from Country as well. Again, that’s not a bad thing in the slightest, especially since Real is honestly her most cohesive album to date. Sure, in some respects it’s hard for me to talk about as a Country critic, but dammit I like this album, and I like Lydia Loveless.
Real is a fitting title for this album. Hell, it’s a fitting title for her discography as a whole. She’s always been known for her honest songwriting and that doesn’t go away on this album. Most of the songs on Real center around love, whether or not it be finding it or losing it and dealing with the aftermath. The album opens strong with “Same To You”, arguably the album’s best song. The snarling guitars combined with Lydia’s passionate vocals help to frame a relationship that’s about to end.
“Longer” is really the first moment that we’re introduced to some new semi-electronic sounds by Lydia and surprisingly enough, I like it. I’m not quite sure that the upbeat disco sound effect really fits the subject matter of this song (or “Heaven” for that matter), but it’s an overall welcome fit for Lydia.
Songs like “More Than Ever” and “Out On Love” are also standouts on this album with both being darker sounding looks at love – getting over it and being afraid of it. Of course, for those of you looking for old school Lydia, “European” and “Clumps” are sure to satisfy that desire. Heck, even the title track is able to mix pedal steel with a more pop sound extremely well, and is another strong track on this album.
Like I said, this album is hard for me to talk about in any great capacity due to it mostly being outside my listening wheelhouse. It might not be for hardcore country fans and that’s okay. I really enjoyed this album and I’m glad to see that Lydia finally said “screw it” and just made the album she wanted. Real is a cohesive album filled with extremely pleasing melodies all throughout as well as top notch songwriting.
Best Tracks: “Same To You”, “More Than Ever”, “Out On Love”