The third album from Columbus, Ohio's Lydia Loveless betrays the young singer's age, in a big way. It also betrays labels: alt-country? No way. Indie? Nope. Classy, old-school, country-tinged rock? Well, yeah, but this doesn't sound like something your dad gets quietly drunk to on the weekend. It sounds young. And that voice… that voice. Loveless lays down her angst, regrets and, occasionally, raunchy desires (on “Head,” she brings to mind Axl Rose getting off that bus in 1987) with such a stunning and soothing drawl it's almost hard to handle. She's confident and hits all the right notes, and does it with grace and style.
But perfect singing does not a great album make. Luckily, the backing band here is excellent as well: restrained when they need to be, a bit reckless when appropriate, and with every member clearly skilled at their instrument. You don't hear as much about the bands behind the solo singers with the stunning voices too often; hopefully these guys don't spend all their time in Loveless' shadow.
The songs have a smooth, mellow-rock vibe, bringing to mind the Pretenders gone down an old, unpaved country road. There are lyrical and musical nods that prove that Loveless is a rocker at heart (see “Somewhere Else” and “Chris Isaak”), and “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” is a perfect marriage of classic country twang and desperation with more upbeat radio rock. Then there's “Head.” Not only is this a daringly, uh, naked song lyrically (to keep the comparison rolling, a young Axl Rose would blush), but the songwriting dynamics are incredible. It probably ain't getting on the radio, but it probably definitely should be.
Sure, sometimes the angst gets too angsty and a couple songs feel a bit like throwaways, but this is a great, memorable and oftentimes moving release from someone who sounds like she has about 20 years and 10 albums more experience than she does.