Lydia Loveless / Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again (Bloodshot Records)
Since she escaped her rural Ohio town as a teenager in the mid-oughts, Lydia Loveless has consistently delivered uncompromising roots rock albums that seamlessly blend country and power pop. Although she’s often been overshadowed by peers like Neko Case, it’s fair to say that aspects of Lydia’s six-album body of work can be heard in the current generation of female singer-songwriters such as Phoebe Bridgers and Julian Baker. Now with Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again, it feels as if Lydia is pushing in all her chips, from the title and provocative cover photo on down. The songs—fueled by a relationship breakdown—certainly back up that assertion. In particular, “Sex And Money” and “Toothache” burn with the anxiety and frustration so many artists face in their 30s, the time when they’ve found their voice but can’t expand their audience without making concessions. The answer lay in staying true to the craft, which is precisely what Lydia does, resulting in nearly every song on Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again containing instantly memorable melodies and lyrics that cut deep without becoming maudlin. Her best record to date.
Brent Cobb / Southern Star (Ol’ Buddy Records / Thirty Tigers)
While his producer cousin, Dave Cobb, has perfected the modern sound of Americana through his work with Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, Brent Cobb has stuck to his own path that largely turns back the clock to the laid-back ‘70s. He refines that approach further on his sixth album Southern Star, a 10-track collection that alternates between smooth J.J. Cale/Don Williams balladry to bouncy, New Orleans-inspired funk. But with its clean, organic production, nothing about Southern Star sounds contrived, which, for listeners who are more accustomed to modern country radio, will surely find palette cleansing. It all derives from Brent’s voice, which is never less than welcoming in a Lowell George-like way, especially on the clear Little Feat homage “Devil Ain’t Done.” Then there’s “When Country Came Back To Town,” on which Brent adopts the role of an elder explaining the current country music renaissance to future young ‘uns, accompanied by plenty of name-dropping. It leaves little doubt as to Brent’s allegiances, with additional points to him for being modest enough to leave his own name off the roll call, even though it deserves to be there.
Clarence White / The Lost Masters 1963-1973 (Liberation Hall)
When a drunk driver took the life of Clarence White in 1973, it left an unfathomable hole in the country rock world. Clarence was in a category all his own as a guitarist, playing on countless L.A. sessions before taking a full-time position with the latter day Byrds, where his invention, the B-string bending Fender Telecaster, became the sound of country rock. But growing up in a family that played bluegrass, Clarence was taught not to be flashy, meaning that today he’s rarely mentioned alongside other guitar greats of the era. The Lost Masters 1963-1973 will likely not alter that perception, but for die-hard Clarence White devotees, the 14-song album is a welcome addition to his catalogue, unearthing previously unheard studio rehearsal takes and live tracks. Many are variations of his staple instrumentals such as “Nashville West,” “Buckaroo” and “White’s Lightning” that feature Clarence in both acoustic and electric settings, all lovingly remastered. The only thing left to complete his legacy is if someone could put out the tapes of the rumoured solo album he was working on at the time of his death.
SONG OF THE WEEK
Robert Finley / “Sneakin’ Around” (Easy Eye Sound)