Last Tuesday, February 18th, “Somewhere Else”, the excellent second album by Lydia Loveless, was released on Bloodshot Records. She will also be playing at Bunbury Music Festival in July. But, did you know that Lydia has strong ties to the Cincinnati music scene? (Cue memory sequence music). I met Lydia when she was just 17 years old (she’s now 23). She is from Columbus and had played a few shows at The Poison Room (where Mainstay is now). She ended up on a last minute booking, with 500 Miles to Memphis, when another band had to drop off the bill. At this show, Miss Lydia met, local legend, David Rhodes Brown. Dave was immediately taken with Lydia’s voice, and as he has a tendency to do with younger musicians he sees real talent and potential in, he began doing his “DRB thing” and helped her set up a recording session with Ted McConnell, to cut a demo (this very demo got her the deal with Bloodshot) and connected her to some local shows.
That’s how I met Lydia. DRB asked me to book her on a show I was hosting in the lounge at the old Southgate House. Lydia and I have giggled many times because when she showed up to play that show, my dear friend, Forrest Horn, who also happened to be working the door, flatly refused to let her in the bar. It all got sorted out eventually and all was well. She played several shows with me after that and she makes her first appearance at the new Southgate House Revival, this Friday, February 28th. My feelings for Lydia are somewhat of a mishmash of big sister and momma. She has become very dear to me. Probably I see parts of myself in her, although she certainly is light years ahead of me in terms of figuring out how to do things her way. Took me much longer in life to get to what’s real and what’s someone else’s shit.
I recently chatted with Lydia about the new album and how she was feeling about it all. We had a great conversation about song-writing and how being from the Midwest plays into song topics and moods and what Lydia aptly referred to as the “Midwestern discontent.” Lydia noted folks from Ohio are friendly, but cranky. Many are resigned people who complain about things but never change them. They get stuck, which can lead to feeling pretty dismal about things. They can’t “say no” to certain expectations and see what that would mean to their lives. The album in general, and particularly the title track itself, “Somewhere Else”, really addresses this dichotomy. Somewhere Else captures this conflicted feeling with complete grace; “I say I wanna leave, then I say you’re all I need. I don’t wanna be with anybody at all. I just wanna be somewhere else tonight.”
This album has a different feel than her first release on Bloodshot, “Indestructible Machine”. It’s not so raw and the music washes around you with Lydia’s phrases, in her truly unique voice, that swells up and sweeps you away on a wave of imagery and sound. The lyrics are blunt but beautiful.
I admit I was caught off guard by her directness when listening to one tune in particular. Completely drawn into a great chorus “Don’t stop, get in my bed. Well honey, don’t stop getting undressed. Don’t stop, get in my bed. Honey don’t stop, giving me…” Wait, what did she just say?? Miss Lydia has turned the tables on “Head”. I’m certainly a liberated woman but I would have never had the balls to write a line like that. And frankly, I love it. In a world full of music that is so homogenized and bland, it is the job of writers to push the lines.
Lydia quipped she wasn’t interested in “making music for stupid people”. She shared with me that she was putting a lot of pressure on herself after touring to support “Indestructible Machine” to write the new stuff. “It was terrifying and now there were expectations. I was practically having a nervous breakdown and then I just let go and the songs were just coming out.” I asked her if she felt pressured to give twang and country qualities to the songs. If you’ve never heard her voice, she literally has one of the purest country voices around. There’s going to be something that is “country” about any song Lydia sings. She didn’t lock herself into the country thing. “I don’t need to put on a big cowboy hat…unless I just feel like wearing a big cowboy hat. Rather than crank out 5 albums, I’m not behind, I want to make really good music.”
This album isn’t about genre; it’s about sincerity and longing. There’s definitely an ache in every track that you cannot miss and cannot get enough of. Whether you’re tuned into those yearnings, which I believe we all have, or not, this album will bring it up to be sure. One of my favorite tracks “Verlaine Shot Rimbuad” makes me absolutely want to run off the rails. I’m very aware of my shadow side and this tune reminds me that dark, passion is alive and well. Lydia credits one of her heroes, Richard Hell, as a great influence that is apparent in this tune. Lydia was stumbling to make a chord and her hand slipped and a more interesting chord came out. She built this song around this bright, slightly dissonant chord, as she references the tale of two, gay French poets that had a stormy affair. “Well Verlain shot Rimbaud because he loved him so. Honey that’s how I love you. Well Verlain shot Rimbaud because he loved him so. Honey that’s how I want to go.” The song rises to a perfect crescendo with Lydia’s voice soaring and repeating the truth of the matter…”I just want to be the one you love. I just want to be the one you love…” She’s hit the sweet spot with this album. It’s wise and naive, it’s beautiful and brutal, heart wrenching and healing; the perfect storm.