Lydia Loveless, “Daughter” (Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records)
Lydia Loveless has been through much in the past few years and “Daughter,” her first original album since 2016, keeps her heart on her sleeve and reveals that not all the scars have healed.
Loveless’ songs display her usual directness and fearlessness, but there’s also plenty of vulnerability.
Divorce, moving from her Ohio base to North Carolina for a new love and earlier, repeated instances of sexual harassment present different degrees of challenges and hurt and Loveless does not sidestep their effect on herself or her songs. While she has often included laugh-out-loud lines in her lyrics, they don’t seem to fit this particular kind of therapy-through-songwriting.
The title track is a real gem. It addresses the difficulties women face to be accepted for who they are, not as people whose sovereignty is considered through their relation to others, whether as daughters, mothers or sisters. Loveless is at her most Stevie Nicks-like here, backed by a rhythm section evoking the sturdy base of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.
“Love Is Not Enough” is classic Loveless, a strum fest that sounds generally defeated — “I can’t believe the worst kind of people achieve/Everything they want” — but personally hopeful, ending on an optimistic note: “Talk to me.”
Loveless is skillful at translating scenarios that could fill tabloid magazines into settings so intimate and exact that, by boosting their humanity, she shakes off any vestiges of sensationalism or voyeurism. “You give the sweetest kisses dear/But you leave the stinger,” she sings on “Wringer,” one of the divorce songs, while also acknowledging that they both caused each other pain.
“September” is grim but youthfully defiant, its piano complemented by cello and Laura Jane Grace’s vocals.
Electronic percussion and synths, not usually part of the Loveless sound, provide the foundations for hopeful closer “Don’t Bother Mountain,” about her life’s current chapter. She finally lets her voice soar, as if emphasizing her will to keep going.
The challenges and traumas that led to a new start have made her talents as a musician and songwriter even sharper. Here’s hoping that the fine humor that gave her songs a special spark will be back soon.