Imagine Dusty Springfield joining a country-fried indie garage band and you’ve got the general idea what you’re in for on Coco Hames’ beautiful, soaring debut solo album.
On her first solo album, Lindsay “Coco” Hames breaks away from her Nashville band the Ettes and in the process has crafted something a bit more personal and reflective than we’ve come to expect from that band. But while there’s plenty of heartbreak and loss present here, it’s far from being a joyless downer; if anything, it’s an expertly crafted, occasionally raucous celebration of the music she loves to write and perform.
Working with producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), singer and guitarist Hames joins forces with bassist Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs), drummer Julian Dorio (the Whigs) and lead guitarist Adam Meisterhans (Rozwell Kid). The result is an album that effortlessly fuses tuneful, garage band noise with countrified girl group pipes that evoke Dusty Springfield, perhaps a twangier Jenny Lewis, and even a little bit of the Ronettes. Likewise, the wide open, reverb-soaked production recalls classic Phil Spector sessions. This all works particularly well from a purely sonic atmosphere. Fortunately, the songs shine as well.
“I Don’t Wanna Go", the album’s debut single, is the best example here of an expert band meshing well with a spectacular song. The upbeat, Ramones-style punk swagger guides the song through Hames’ defiant lyrics. “Doesn’t matter what they say / Cause I’m gonna get my way / And I don’t wanna go,” Hames coos in the chorus, as the guitars slash away to an insistent pounding of drums.
Elsewhere, the gritty punk vibe falls away to make room for more tender, reflective moments such as the gorgeous ballad “Tennessee Hollow", where a gentle country melody carries the song along gracefully and is adorned with breathtaking, lightly effects-laden lead guitar. The song has a lovely simplicity and the air of a classic you’ve heard several times before but somehow can’t place it.
One of the album’s nicest surprises is “Tiny Pieces", her duet with Deer Tick singer John McCauley. An irresistible guitar riff frames the song (written by Tommy Hinson of the Replacements for his Bash & Pop side project) and manages to give the tune a nice power-pop boost. The sweetness of Hames’ voice mixes well with McCauley’s snarl, and a messy guitar solo drives the Replacements connection home.
Some of the album’s best moments are the simplest ones. “This House Ain’t a Home” is a brief, two-minute track with a mid-tempo waltz beat, a brief barroom-style piano solo and a simple, honest lament of the end of a relationship. “These walls have got some stories to tell / I’m looking / I’m listening / I’m praying like hell / We can’t pick up back where we fell / This house ain’t a home anymore.” Again, it sounds almost like a vaguely familiar old Bobbie Gentry single, but it’s brand-new music, albeit written by an old soul.
Coco Hames’ debut album shouldn’t surprise fans of the Ettes, but there’s a personal touch here that sets it apart from that band. It works well both as a gritty, smoky barroom soundtrack but also as a fitting playlist for a top-down, cross-country road trip. At just a shade over 30 minutes in length, it’s a true no-filler album, one that includes songs to crank up and dance around to and others to just crack open a beer to. Raise your bottle to Coco Hames and let’s hope there’s more where that came from.