The Good Lovelies began their auspicious career with a tiny 5-track EP called Oh My. The girls’ rapidly growing following clamored for more shortly after the release of this stunning little EP. Their divine self-titled full-length debut was released near the end of January in 2009 and re-released internationally in the summer of 2010. Good Lovelies is a magnificent debut showcasing each performer’s wonderful talent and songwriting abilities. Kerri Ough contributed the upbeat Tin Pan Alley tracks reminiscent of ‘50s AM radio gospel tunes. Sue Passmore soothed with her deep soulful voice, not long for the jazzier tunes. And Caroline Brooks incorporated her sweet harmonics over her distinct pop/folk sensibilities. The trio are perfectly matched, and their Juno Award-winning debut proved this.
In between their debut and Let the Rain Fall, the Lovelies released a Christmas-themed record entitled Under the Mistletoe, a novelty album that helped to establish the trio as a musical staple. Let the Rain Fall is the Good Lovelies’ official second full-length album featuring predominantly original music. Given their unfaltering beginnings, I was curious (and very excited) to hear which direction the Lovelies would be headed in now. Album opener “Made for Rain” establishes the thematic concept of the record and re-introduces the listener to the genre style the girls are famous for. There’s nothing spectacularly new with the first two tracks—“Made for Rain” and “Free”—but this is not an immediately bad thing.
The album quickly shifts into a lower gear and slows down with two album highlights “Old Highway” and “Best I Know”. Since their inception, the Good Lovelies have been touring relentlessly, never allowing their fanbase to forget that they are there for a second. The consequences of this unrelenting touring are evidenced in almost every track on Let the Rain Fall, introduced with “Old Highway”, where Caroline sings “The more you see / The more you know / Days move slow / But the loneliness will leave you / I love it that way / Far as I can see any time of day / My heart’s on the old highway.” The brave face the girls donned with the opening tracks is slowly fading here, and the yearning lovelorn begins to seep through. Their experiences of being tightly connected to each other and stripped of the life they often leave behind has taken its toll—it makes for some great songwriting. “Best I Know” is beautifully orchestrated and remarkably touching when Kerri sings, softly and simply: “And if I stay up late, would you keep me company?” It’s a simple and touching request, sung against the fragility of her timid guitar strumming.
As the rest of the album plays out, the Good Lovelies grapple with the dissonance between their love of music and their familial life, trying to successfully merge the two. What is glaringly obvious with Let the Rain Fall is the tighter focus and almost complete homogenization of the girls’ once varied songwriting styles. With a shorter recording schedule than their debut (two weeks total), the girls needed to be more organized. Although there are some slight distinctions between songs, much of the record is tighter in its execution, which has both positive and negative outcomes. The positive is the girls coming into their own as a cohesive unit, without any palpable distinction between a Kerri-led, Sue-led, or Caroline-led song. They are unifying as Good Lovelies through and through. However, what the girls were celebrated for on their debut album (an album largely written from their individual experiences, as opposed to the shared common ground of this sophomore release) was the characteristic distinctions between each performer, and how they complemented one another perfectly. They were recognizable beyond their Good Lovelies moniker, like any great girl group is. The melding of forms and styles could result in the Good Lovelies becoming interchangeable and thus less charismatic as individual pieces that collectively create a whole better than the sum of its parts. This is not to say that there aren’t some distinguishing characteristics between each Good Lovely’s songs (especially those led by Caroline Brooks), but that they are much less pronounced than on their debut, or even their Christmas album Under the Mistletoe.
Let the Rain Fall still stands as a solid effort, even if there are fewer surprises then on the debut. The not-to-be-missed highlights include the above mentioned “Old Highway” and “Best I Know”, as well as the magnificently jazzy Passmore-led “Lonesome Hearts”, and Brooks’s wonderful bilingual album closer “Mrs. T”. The album is distinctively Canadian, lyrically and melodically, and there is no mistaking where their hearts lie. The one misstep on the album is the misplaced quirky cover of K-OS’s “Crabbuckit”. The attempt was sincere and well-intentioned, and singularly stands as a solid track that would have been better suited as a live favourite or a b-side. On Let the Rain Fall, “Crabbuckit” is very much out of place and sticks out like a sore thumb, even though it highlights, quite nicely, the Good Lovelies’ beautiful harmonies.
With two full-length original albums into their careers, the Good Lovelies are near the beginning of their worldwide domination. They seem to be at a career-making crossroads: do they continue to envelop themselves in the local Toronto-folk music scene, or do they branch out into various musical landscapes, sampling from styles and genres that go beyond their immediate comfort zones, much in the way they attempted with “Crabbuckit”. One thing is certain, whichever direction the Good Lovelies decide to embark upon, I will be avidly listening from my permanent spot in the front row.