Home New music in our mailbox! Album review: Lori Yates – Matador

Album review: Lori Yates – Matador

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Lori Yates has been around the Americana scene since well before we started calling it Americana – as a member of 80s country rockers Rang Tango, a solo artist, and recently, a member of the supergroup Hey Stella with Bazil Donovan, Michelle Joseph and the dearly departed David Baxter.

She did some time as a major label Nashville recording artist, co-writing with Guy Clarke and others and putting out a pretty glitzy Steve Buckingham-produced record in 1989.

But in my opinion, she’s at her best when she keeps the arrangements simple, as she did on 2007’s The Book of Minerva, and edits herself enough to showcase only her best work, of which there is plenty.

By those standards, her new album, Matador, is among the best she’s ever put out.

The nine songs are consistently strong, and the arrangements, though fuller than Minerva’s, never feel forced.

Instead, the rocking out on tracks like “Time After Time,” a rerecording of Lori’s Guy Clarke co-write, or the title track, a tribute to the long-time after hours club on Toronto’s Dovercourt Road, has the vibe of a bunch of great friends having a good time together – which of course is exactly what’s happening.

The record features Lori’s Hey Stella bandmates, Michelle, Bazil and yes, the late David Baxter, along with Jimmy Bowskill on mandolin, pedal steel and banjo and Steve O’Connor on keys. Co-producer Tim Velsey of the Rheostatics – an inspired choice by the sounds of things – plays just about every instrument at one point or another: organs, piano, guitar, bass and percussion.

Lori’s voice is in peak form too, rich and resonant in the lower registers and strong and bird-like in the higher ones. Her press material says it “cracks in all the right places,” but actually, I don’t recall hearing it crack much at all, which isn’t a bad thing.

There’s an air of nostalgia and even a pang of grief that hangs in the air on Matador, notably on tracks like “I Loved You” (past tense), “What a Life,” the title track, and of course, “Alive,” with it’s chorus of “It’s good to be alive, even when it hurts to be alive.”

Another stand-out is the haunting “Rage Within Me” about a woman crying out for her mother after fleeing an abusive relationship.

It’s the kind of album only an older woman could make, inspired by that mixture of wisdom and sadness that comes from having more life behind you than ahead of you – but also marked by a certain relaxed beauty that comes from letting go of the tendency to overthink one’s art and just doing what feels right.

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