Laura Love has a book to coincide with this album of the same name. It’s a release that some people might suspect as being just a tad too cute or perfect, especially given that similar releases end up being spread too thin, resulting in a poor book and awful record. But this musician manages for the most part to offer up a nice mix of folk that brings to mind Victoria Williams without the extremely quirky and eclectic delivery. This sound is quite apparent on the rudimentary folk opener “Good Enough”, which is definitely good enough. From the simple guitar strumming, Love has a waver in her voice that isn’t the defining trait but a nice complement. “My friend and I we go a long way back / I could do worse than to be like they are,” she sings while a dobro is brought in.
Love grew up as a poor child in Nebraska, and Nebraska colors most of the material on the album. “Homage to Omaha” is more in line with a sparse Lucinda Williams or Emmylou Harris attempt. The darker groove and gloomy arrangement revolves around Love’s presentation, which also could be mistaken for a Rickie Lee Jones technique. The distant harmonies are another plus, while the drums are just above a whisper, the brushing only giving it more character. The strength of the record is Love’s early songs, especially the Dolly Parton-esque “Ain’t No Power” that glides along to near perfection. Whether it’s the military drumbeat reining things in or the melody that surpasses the clichéd protest chants used as lyrical content. It loses its steam as this refrain goes on perhaps a half-minute too long.
Love goes down a road best left for Tom Waits during the vaudeville jazz quirk of “Freak Flag” which discusses doing everything you can to be different, be it genital piercing or tattooing. The sultry vibe grows on the listener but it’s still a rather arduous tune to get through given how better the previous numbers come off. The funky and worldly sound of “Oh Safonda” is another veering track that moves into new territory with average results. Canadians might recognize the sound as something ‘80s pop band the Parachute Club did circa “Rise Up”. The light island flavor is its only saving grace.
When Love decides to go into the light folk or pop mold, the payoff is great, especially on the title track, which has a certain ‘70s AM radio manner to it in the vein of people like Juice Newton or Linda Ronstandt. Perhaps the sleeper pick might be “It’s Always Fall” as Love gives a haunting performance with delayed harmonies in the background, resulting in a quaint give and take, dreamy Celtic lullaby song much like something by the October Project. It’s this up and down nature to the album that doesn’t make it mesh in spots, especially after the slow and at times boring “In Lincoln”, something that James Taylor might think is hip but basically nobody else. Love keeps searching for the heart of the song by moving into a jazz and then slow funk style, but she is grasping at straws.
The folk-hop of “Behind the Door” is a great combination that has Gillian Welch’s earthiness with an urbane, Dave Matthews back beat. Again, Love goes to the simple folk-cum-gospel well on “Hard Times” and sounds completely at ease and at home on this format. It’s a format that might have been used a tad more on this album, but overall Love seems more often than not to offer up enjoyable, laidback songs.
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// Notes from the Road
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