Mary Lees Corvette: Love, Loss, and Lunacy

Maura McAndrew

A promising country-rock album is marred by some lazy lessons from the Sheryl Crow school of rock.

Mary Lee's Corvette

Love, Loss, and Lunacy

Label: Western Force
US Release Date: 2006-05-16
UK Release Date: Available as import

In 2002, a little-known singer named Mary Lee Kortes became a hipster sensation when she released a live, song-for-song version of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks (which even received four stars in Rolling Stone). This was a ballsy move for a woman whose career began writing songs for the likes of Amy Grant, and she became known to many as an interesting artist to watch. Kortes' new album, Love, Loss, and Lunacy (under her band name, Mary Lee's Corvette), however, has no gimmicks. It is a simple, straight-up classic rock record with a few country leanings.

No gimmicks should be a good thing, right? Simplicity is good, but here it borders on generic, and I can't help but wish for some of the guts and creativity it took Mary Lee's Corvette to remake a classic album and actually do it well. At its best, Love, Loss, and Lunacy can be a catchy, crackling, sunny rock album; at its worst, it can be as grating and tired as a Sheryl Crow album. An example of the latter is the album's opener, "All That Glitters", a perky rock number with too much swagger and by-the-numbers guitar solos. Kortes' voice is pretty with bite, and she sings with personality. Sometimes though, as in "All That Glitters", she can come off as a bit phony. She's painting herself a tough-girl persona, but the songs are more fun when she ignores the poses and chooses honesty.

While "Wasting the Sun" and "Learn From What I Dream" are similar up-tempo rock retreads, the haunting "Verla" and sweeping country "Thunderstruck" make the album more interesting. "Verla" is a good example of what Mary Lee's Corvette should be. It's a Tom Petty-esque bluesy rambler with an ominous climax. The evocative lyrics warn of a vague trouble: "The biscuit's baked, / The sun is low, / The honey's sweet, / And pouring slow." Here is where Kortes' delivery is right on, and it makes me wonder why she felt the need to fill Love, Loss, and Lunacy with peppy, Sheryl Crow-style sun ballads. She's at her best when she's being creepy, which is something a lot of musicians refuse to admit about themselves. "Thunderstruck" and "Nothing Left To Say", though not creepy, are almost as good, the reason being that they lack the mechanical guitar solos and bombast; rather, they're content to be pretty country tunes. Kortes allows the songs to breathe without suffocating them in rock-chick swagger. These songs may not be edgy, but they're also not contrived, a trait Mary Lee's Corvette sometimes picks up in the quest for edge.

A glaring oddity on Love, Loss, and Lunacy is "Where Did I Go Wrong, Elton John?" a cute idea that just doesn't fit. Kortes serenades her hero with a mandolin-heavy ditty meant to echo an early Elton John ballad. Unfortunately, it comes off more like one of his later, Taupin-less works (perhaps she can plug in different names, as he did with "Candle In the Wind"?), and frankly, it's just a little silly: "Every question had an answer, / I could fly, this tiny dancer."

All in all, Love, Loss, and Lunacy is a relatively enjoyable album. There are some good songs here, but you have to have the patience to let it grow on you, and not just let the filler dominate. When she's at her most creative, Mary Lee Kortes adds an interesting twist to the typical country-rock album, but a lot of the time it sounds as though she's simply churning out the songs too quickly without giving them time to take shape.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.