Lillie Mae is tenacious, and that drive is propelling her stardom skyward. First appearing as part of the family band Jypsi, then performing as a back-up musician for Jack White, Lillie Mae’s career has carved a unique and definitive position within the alt-country scene. But as a solo artist and with the release of her sophomore album, Other Girls, Lillie Mae has continued to cultivate her musical identity. Released from Third Man Records and produced by David Cobb, Other Girls is the album that will garner Lillie Mae the attention she deserves.
The LP’s lead single, “You’ve Got Other Girls for That” finds country-inspired vocals and lyrics while the instrumentation provides a more rasping and electric timbre. The lyrics drip with betrayal and aggravation over a womanizing lover. Unlike the archetypical country song, Lillie Mae refuses to wallow in the hapless victim identity. Instead, she demonstrates full awareness of the philandering but then spurns the lover when she asserts, “I ain’t your baby / Even though I thought I’d be / And it ain’t like you, babe, to know me well / My reality is spoiled / Purity expired.” Lillie Mae’s disapproval is reinforced by the cacophonous instrumentation representing the antagonism and romantic discord.
Lillie Mae maintains an unapologetic sense of empowerment despite her lover’s dalliances. As in “You’ve Got Other Girls for That” and throughout Other Girls, Lillie Mae doesn’t ask permission to revel in her strength. In “I Came for the Band (For Show)” she bucks the stereotype illustrating women in music as merely groupies or musicians’ girlfriends. Her depiction of women’s musical and creative agency is especially apparent when she sings, “I came here for me / I came for the band.” “Didn’t I” reveals Lillie Mae admonishing herself for repeating mistakes. But the singer refuses to welter and fade. Rather, she accepts accountability and attains solace in her inability “to mend, that never mends”. When considering these tracks as pieces to Other Girls’ whole, the narrative structure centralizes the importance of personal growth and self-awareness.
Lillie Mae’s spin on country music instrumentation and vocalization is infectious. “Blue Heart” hooks the listener in the first five seconds as her nasal yodel is sublimely imperfect and fractured. Her vocal frailty reflects the vulnerability caused by heartache as imagined on the track. Written as a waltz in three-four time, the track summons the specters of Patsy Cline or Wanda Jackson while maintaining Lillie Mae’s individuality. In the following, “How Many Times”, Lillie Mae’s vocals ascend as a twangy guitar steadily plucks a counterpoint, an echo of the singer’s lamentations. The conversation between voice and instrument engenders the image of a stuttering and stagnant conversation, with both sides resigning to their distant corners. Yet, it is Lillie Mae’s vocal strength that exorcises the pain and repositions her as the victor.
Lillie Mae’s ability to strike multiple emotions in a singular track is evident in Other Girls’ standout, “Golden Year”. She was inspired to write the song after leaving Refuge in Appleton, Wisconsin, a space for artists and musicians to develop their work and sense of self while residing in a monastery. On the last day of her golden year, Lillie Mae recalls hearing the “chapel that seemed to be Angels singing. And they sang the whole song to me, and the words flew out faster than I could find a pen in the office.” Endowed with serpentine guitar riffs and jangly percussion, Lillie Mae chants and sings non-lexical notes to create an ethereal energy. Here, Lillie Mae musically captures the fear and beauty typically associated with angelic entities.
Whereas Lillie Mae may have seen her experience at Refuge as her golden year’s culmination, the release of Other Girls positions her to have another year of rocketing success and acclaim. It is too easy to compare Lillie Mae to other alt-country crossover artists hence Other Girls’ purpose is to demonstrate Lillie Mae’s creative and musical ingenuity.