Updated: Jun 21, 2021
After leaving Big Back Forty, Steve McGann became an attorney and got into artist management. One of the artists he managed early in her career was Lydia Loveless. I’d been hearing a lot about Loveless and may have even seen a bit of a set at ComFest, but I didn’t see a full performance until a gig at the old Bethel Road Pub in 2010ish. Her voice was unique and strong, as were her songs and performance. Elisa played with The Mary Anns that night and we picked up a copy of The Only Man, released on McGann’s Peloton Records, afterward. Fast forward to 2016 and Elisa bought a vinyl copy of Real. Wow! I hadn’t been keeping up, but the progression was startling. This was rocking, but catchy and more poppy than I suspected she’d go. Moody melodies. Right up my alley and super impressive.
Bloodshot Records - BS 239
Produced with Lydia by Joe Viers at his Sonic Lounge Studio in Grove City, the Real sessions would be documented in the recommended Who Is Lydia Loveless DVD released the same year. Same To You kicks off the album strongly. With a killer harmony by Todd May, the chorus is catchy as hell. Lydia’s voice has a unique vibrato reminiscent at times of Belinda Carlisle, except it’s offset by an aching twang more like Loretta Lynn or Roy Orbison.
Heaven is propelled by Ben Lamb’s bass riff and has an atmosphere reminiscent of Chris Isaak. It’s a guitar fest with layered jangly acoustic and plunky electric with that direct-to-board Robbie Blunt-type tone I love so much and you rarely hear anymore. Background keys add texture and rhythmic ear candy. Out On Love has the perfect moody melody that makes you want to stare out the window and think.
Guitars are courtesy of Todd May and Jay Gasper with Andy Harrison (Howlin’ Maggie) and Viers contributing to what ends up being not just a great album, but a great guitar album. George Hondroulis (Our Flesh Party, The Evil Queens) provides the rocking-but-musical drumming that has made him one of Columbus’ most steadily working drummers. The video for the contemplative acoustic Clumps was recorded at my favorite record store, Lost Weekend. The title track closes out my favorite album from one of Columbus’ most talented artists.
Loveless has achieved plenty of critical acclaim and Real has a Metascore of 82 indicating “universal acclaim.” With so many music fans obsessed with authenticity, I think some folks thought calling the album Real was a gutsy move. But Real strikes me as an artistic statement from someone trying to be themselves and not worry about expectations or being perceived as cool. Because after all, everyone thinks about what is “real.” After the Real tour, Loveless relocated to Morrisville North Carolina, went public with the sexual misconduct she’s endured, and released her follow-up album Daughter, in 2020. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
"We refer only to things fully formed and everlasting as "real." If a marriage ends it was "fake" and everything was a "lie." We ask if quickly made-up tunes are "real songs." The veil of depression causes us to wonder if we're real people, feeling discarded, sitting at the kid's table. Am I real even if I stayed in bed all day? Is love real even when it's over or goes entirely unfulfilled? Are we real after we die, even if no one remembers us? Or is anything temporary merely a fake, a phony, a stand-in? I was thinking about this a lot when I was writing these songs. What makes someone, even someone lacking the confidence to show their true selves a "real" authentic person?
When I strip away my vices, who am I really? Am I only myself when I'm dancing on a table and making the most vulgar of wisecracks, even though I hate that person, it gets a rise out of myself. The party monkey side. But the side with any amount of grace is often met with concern or disdain. Who are you really, at the end of the day, entirely alone, without all the daydreams and the bullshit and the performance art we go through all day every day, even nonperformers or as we call them, "normal" people? Because I feel like I spent my formative years flopping around like a fish, masking pain with substance abuse and somewhat ashamed of who I was—a hayseed, a phony, I felt—it was absolutely necessary for me to become a stronger, more confident human, or I was going to die. Real is my sort of love letter to that realization, that my existence was just as valid as any other.” - Lydia Loveless
Tracklist A1 Same To You
A5 Out On Love
Mastered At – Sonic Lounge Recording Studio
Mastered At – Chicago Mastering Service
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Bloodshot Ltd.
Copyright (c) – Bloodshot Ltd.
Published By – DePugh Music
Published By – Pitchblende
Bass – Ben Lamb
Design – Sheila Sachs
Drums – George Hondroulis
Guitar – Andy Harrison (3), Jay Gasper, Joe Viers, Lydia Loveless, Todd May
Keyboards – Andy Harrison (3), George Hondroulis, Jay Gasper, Todd May
Mastered By [Vinyl] – BW
Mastered By, Engineer, Mixed By – Joe Viers
Pedal Steel Guitar – Jay Gasper
Percussion – George Hondroulis, Joe Viers
Photography By – Laura E. Partain
Producer – Joe Viers, Lydia Loveless
Vocals – Lydia Loveless, Todd May
Written-By – Lydia Loveless, S. Todd May (tracks: A4, B1 to B3)