Lorrie Morgan - Dead Girl Walking

Cleopatra Records

***1/2

Lorrie Morgan brings a vast amount of experience to her first new album in more than seven years and even more skill. I’ve lost count of how many albums she has out now, but it’s more than a dozen and if you look hard enough, you’ll also find her on several other projects. Compared to her own work, this isn’t amongst her best, but compared to most, Lorrie Morgan is still putting out some of the most meaningful, emotional and intriguing music Nashville has to offer. Consider the dilemma of the country-music legend who doesn’t want to rest on her laurels. Is it enough to show you’re still in the game by making a record that may be merely adequate? Is it better to modernise your sound, and possibly come off as desperate or inauthentic? Her wide, signature vibrato intact, she is one of those fortunate few whose vocal prime and musical maturity overlap by a good many years. There seems to be a more exacting line between her country and pop moods, but both are comfortably lying side by side on this latest offering as they often have been in the past. That same singular voice is still at the forefront of everything she creates, but here, it is draped in silky synth, throbbing beats, and swooning strings. There are orchestral string moments both sparse and dramatic, and vibrant and occasionally cacophonous. I’d say it’s an album which could grow on you with repeated hearings … parts of it anyway.

There’s not the smooth flow that leads to a stunning listening experience. This might be because Richard Landis, her long-time producer, unexpectedly passed away shortly before the album was completed. Recording engineer Lawson White, who had worked often with both Lorrie and Richard, stepped up to complete the album alongside Lorrie as co-producer. As a tribute to Richard Landis, this is an emotional legacy … with a certain sadness and resilience running through the tracks. Lorrie squeezes the most unusual use of instrumentation, infusing the opener, Hands On You, with vibraphone, glockenspiel, mellotron, synthesiser, alongside electric guitars, strings, percussive beats and multi-tracked saxophones. Penned by Ashley Monroe and Jon Randall, this is much more admirably rich and ambitiously human than it first sounds, as Lorrie cranks her seductive vocal to proclaim the angst of a missed romantic entanglement. The title song experiments with the concept of release in a dreamlike consciousness, a bitter edge to each lyric she spits out following a messy break-up.

There’s a much lighter touch to Days Like These. Made for lying in a field of grass and peering into the sunlight, the melody is gentle and really pop, and the sweeping string arrangement wonderfully intertwines with Dan Dugmore’s melodic Dobro and the harmonies on the chorus. Mirror, Mirror is a delicate piano ballad of reflections. Lorrie’s voice is powerful and exquisite, each musician adding painterly, cinematic elements to create a blend of swirling musicianship, transcendent narratives, classical country-pop and psychedelic depth. Despite offering her usual warmth and intimacy, she still deftly keeps the listener at bay by retaining a degree of mystery. Towards the end of the album, Mickey Newbury’s What Will I Do and Larry Gatlin’s I Almost Called Him Baby By Mistake, are pure soul torch songs by any other name, but they sit perfectly within the overall whole. She closes with a reggae-tinged revival of Sam Cooke’s You Send Me, but the arrangement is a little messy. That just might be the problem with the album as a whole. Lorrie and her team have tried a little too hard, rather than letting the whole thing flow neatly from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Lorrie Morgan, then adding DEAD GIRL WALKING to your collection is a must, but for the inquisitive, a listen first, is also a must.

https://lorrie.com

June 2024