Review of Somewhere Else by Lydia Loveless

somewhereelse

Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else (2014, Bloodshot)

She was all dressed up and ready to be crowned alt-country’s queen-in-waiting, but a funny thing happened on the way home from the prom. Lydia Loveless rolled down the window, tossed the tiara, took a left turn and hit the throttle.

On her third full-length record, the 23-year-old Loveless says goodbye to the raging banjos and cowpunk shuffles that made it so easy to box her in as the future of alt-country. Somewhere Else is something very different — a radio-ready rock album that aligns the singer less with country blues songstress Lucinda Williams and more with a fellow Ohioan, rocker Chrissie Hynde.

Sure, many of those good ol’ country music themes (drinking, cheating, etc.) remain at the heart of Loveless’ songwriting, and she’s not afraid to cast herself in a bad light. On Somewhere Else, the singer is a drunk, a home-wrecker, an obsessive helplessly bent on self-destruction and destined to wind up alone. But she also knows her way around a song, with lyrics so direct and sexually frank it’s hard to miss the point — or not get caught up in the naughty fun.

Listen to “Really Want To See You” “Really Wanna See You” by Lydia Loveless

The album’s first track, “Really Want To See You,” announces not just its obsessive lyrical tone but also its direction as a straight-ahead rock record. The listener is greeted with screaming guitars, heavy drums and not a hint of the twang that was a hallmark of Loveless’ previous work.

On the poppier “Wine Lips,” Loveless shows off her talent for terrific word play. Early in the song when she sings, “Ain’t there somewhere where you and me can be alone/Honey, this isn’t a party if it’s chaperoned,” you already have a good idea of who you’re dealing with. This is an artist who isn’t afraid to say what she wants, and seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

Listen to “Wine Lips” “Wine Lips” by Lydia Loveless

Eventually, steel guitar winds it’s way into the mix as the songs start to sink from the heart to the gut and, eventually, the crotch. On the slow-burner “Hurts So Bad,” Loveless sings, “I swore I’d go to bed, but I must have it bad/’Cause I got up and I pushed every button your elevator had.” On the not-so-subtle “Head,” she sings, “The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I can dream/Well, maybe if I get lucky tonight you’ll be there waiting, ready for me.”

Listen to “Head” “Head” by Lydia Loveless

As things slow down on the back half of the record, Loveless offers a glimpse at her more gentle side. But obsession, longing and desire for love remain constant themes throughout Somewhere Else, a record so well executed, straightforward and fun that it’s bound to elevate Ms. Loveless’ profile as an indie-rock comer and destined to be included on many lists of the 2014’s best.

— PHIL FAVORITE
That Much Further West Podcast

Lydia Loveless and her band will be performing live in Portland at Doug Fir Lounge on Wednesday, April 2. The Stubborn Lovers open the show. Visit www.dougfirlounge.com for more information.

 

 

Review of Nothin’ But Blood by Scott H. Biram

NothinButBlood

Scott H. Biram, Nothin’ But Blood  (2014, Bloodshot Records)

I guess there is really no point in trying to describe the type of music played by Scott H. Biram. I have given his new album, Nothing But Blood, at least 20-plus spins in preparation to write this review and I pick up on something different every time. The “Dirty Old One Man Band” as Scott is called could just as easily be labeled the “Dirty Old One Man Musical Library” ranging from punk to blues to country to metal to gospel and straight-up, dirty rock & roll.

The new album starts with a mellow, introspective country picker, “Slow & Easy,” with lyrics that could also be dropped in to fit a more raucous, rocking framework, or with a bit of steel guitar could convey that oozy, alt-country feel.

Listen to “Slow & Easy” Slow & Easy [Explicit]

This song takes me back to a certain summer when I was a teenager and my stepfather Garry and I spent two weeks high up in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Garry was a scrap metal guy and we got a job tearing down some old logging equipment left behind many years prior. Long days were spent cutting and tearing apart this old, rusty metal and at night we would drive up to camp above the timberline, where we would turn on the AM radio and pick up stations of all genres from as far away as Mississippi, Oklahoma and California and closer stations in Colorado. The station waves would roll in and out as the car radio scanned past each station.

Those old familiar songs from all over the dial made the nights more comfortable and the thoughts of home slip away and get lost in the thin, mountain air.

Listen to “Never Comin’ Home” Never Comin’ Home

Nothing But Blood is a definite trip throughout its 14 tracks (11 plus three bonus) and a listener might feel as if their iPod is on shuffle. It delivers The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Biram and his music. I reckon Scott is like the majority of true music fans whose tastes and influences are wide and ever evolving. I appreciate his willingness to push his boundaries and deliver new and different styles and material. I also enjoy that Nothin’ But Blood can be just as chaotic and jarring as his live performances, but also just as moving and exciting.

Every good performer and musician learns from their predecessors and contemporaries. With Nothing But Blood, Biram takes those lessons and twists them into the hot, sweaty joyride only he can deliver.

Listen to “Church Point Girls” Church Point Girls

Scott H. Biram is currently on tour with Larry and His Flask and The Whiskey Shivers and will be performing on Saturday, March 8 at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland. For more information, check out www.scottbiram.com and be sure to pick up his new album Nothing But Blood on Bloodshot Records.

— MIKE LEE
That Much Further West Podcast