“Love is not enough, I wonder if it ever was”
Lydia Loveless, ‘Love Is Not Enough’
I first became aware of Lydia Loveless a few years back, as she was touring on the Somewhere Else record. I was the sound guy for her and the band at a Horizon Records show. Lydia has it all; smart, a great songwriter with an amazing voice. She gets bonus points for her super cool midnight blue Rickenbacker 360 guitar. At our show, they also performed a stellar cover of Kirsty MacColl’s ‘They Don’t Know’ (check out our Tracey Ullman podcast at tinyurl.com/zubdontknow, featuring Lydia’s version).
I have read that Lydia has acrimoniously left her label, Bloodshot, and gone through a divorce. She now lives in Raleigh, NC with her new partner, has her own label, and hopefully things are better. You wouldn't know if they were after listening to the ten songs on Daughter. This is a record of disillusionment and letdown. It’s a backwards looking, classic breakup record, intensely personal and a bit of a beautiful downer. But it sounds like she earned the right to be in a blue funk.
Lydia’s music is classified as ‘Americana’ or ‘Country.’ Indeed it has many of these elements, but her pop sensibilities come through strong on Daughter. Recorded at Wilco’s Loft in Chicago with noted producer Tom Schick, this is a sprawling record, using many cool production touches, but always held together by Lydia’s remarkable voice. She has a voice like a hardscrabble Neko Case; it’s a strong, evocative instrument and always up in the mix.
Opening with ‘Dead Writer,’ a song about escaping your problems, the production bursts open almost in a Beach Boys way. ‘Love Is Not Enough’ is a real stunner, a classic pop song that is given almost a Byrds-like treatment. It’s catchy and sad, filled with chiming Rickenbacker guitars, as Lydia comes to some hard realizations about “living in a rut.” One of the best songs I’ve heard this year.
“How did it come to this, dividing our possessions” is the first line from ‘Wringer,’ a sort-of upbeat tempo tune with atmospheric keys in the back. ‘Say My Name’ has almost an old R&B feel attached to a lyric about obsession. “I was the one that wanted more, now I’m sitting round at home” is a key lyric from ‘Never,’ a bass driven song that’s a bit more uptempo.
‘Daughter’ is Lydia at the low ebb:
There’s never been a better time to be alive
The arms of opportunity are spread wide
I wanna be a part of you but it’s not enough
If I gave you a daughter would you open up
Oh to be like Mary full of grace
You’d be worshipping my body and my brain
Cuz I know you never take me at my word
It’s always something you’ve already heard
Why can’t I show you this side of me
And prove to you who I could be
It’s relentlessly sad, with a sparse, simple keyboard and Lydia’s astonishing vocal. ‘When You’re Gone’ is a story of a friend’s attempted suicide. Key line: “I lie awake, and wonder when it’s coming for me.” Album closer ‘Don’t Bother Mountain’ has a civil war vibe, think Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett and ‘The Scarlet Tide,’ plaintive and pretty.