Blessed with a commanding, blast-it-to-the-back-of-the-room voice, the 25-year-old Lydia Loveless was raised on a family farm in Coshocton, Ohio—a small weird town with nothing to do but make music. With a dad who owned a country music bar, Loveless often woke up with a house full of touring musicians scattered on couches and floors. She has turned this potential nightmare scenario (eww....touring musicians smell...) into a wellspring of creativity.
When she got older, in the time-honored traditions of teenage rebellion, she turned her back on these roots, moved to the city (Columbus, OH) and immersed herself in the punk scene, soaking up the musical and attitudinal influences of everyone from Charles Bukowski to Richard Hell to Hank III.
Loveless's Bloodshot debut album Indestructible Machine combined heady doses of punk rock energy and candor with the country classicism she was raised on and just can’t shake; it was a gutsy and unvarnished mash-up. It channeled ground zero-era Old 97s (with whom she later toured) but the underlying bruised vulnerability came across like Neko Case’s tuff little sister. Indestructible Machine possesses a snotty irreverence and lyrical brashness that’s an irresistible kick in the pants.
On her second Bloodshot album Somewhere Else, released after a few 7" singles and an EP, Loveless was less concerned with chasing approval – she scrapped an entire album’s worth of material before writing the set – and more focused on fighting personal battles of longing and heartbreak, and the aesthetic that comes along with them. While her previous album was described as “hillbilly punk with a honky-tonk heart” (Uncut), this one couldn’t be so quickly shoehorned into neat categorical cubbyholes. No, things were different this time around—Loveless and her band collectively dismissed the genre blinders and sonic boundaries that came from playing it from a safe, familiar place. Creatively speaking, ifIndestructible Machine was an all-night bender, Somewhere Else was the forlorn twilight of the next day, when that creeping nostalgia has you looking back for someone, something, or just... anything.
2016's Real is one of those exciting records where you sense an artist truly hitting their stride, that their vision is both focused and expansive, and that their talent brims with a confident sense of place, execution and exploration. Whether you've followed Lydia's career forever, like us, or if you are new to her ample game, Real is gonna grab your ears.
On her first two Bloodshot albums, there were fevered comparisons to acknowledged music icons like Loretta Lynn, Stevie Nicks, Replacements, and more. She's half this, half that, one part something else. We hate math. But, now Real and Lydia Loveless are reference points of their own. Genre-agnostic, Lydia and her road-tightened band pull and tease and stretch from soaring, singalong pop gems, roots around the edges to proto-punk. There are many sources, but the album creates a sonic center of gravity all its own.
Always a gifted writer with a lot to say, Lydia gives the full and sometimes terrifying, sometimes ecstatic force of the word. Struggles between balance and outburst, infectious choruses fronting emotional torment are sung with a sneer, a spit, or a tenderness and openness that is both intensely personal and universally relatable. It is, as the title suggests, real.
Lydia Loveless has toured with artists such as Old 97's, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Iron & Wine, Scott H. Biram, and the Supersuckers. Her music has been praised by Rolling Stone, NPR, Pitchfork, SPIN, Stereogum, Chicago Tribune, and more.
Loveless penned an original song for the 2015 film I Smile Back, starring Sarah Silverman, and was the subject of the 2016 documentary Who Is Lydia Loveless?, directed by Gorman Bechard.
Amigo is a rock and roll band. This might sound quaint or even a little passé but it’s an entirely apt and appropriate description. Amigo is a guitar, a bass, a drum set and buckets full of songs and its members share a proud and unrepentant belief in rock & roll’s divine promise and power to shake audience and band alike to their core.
The Charlotte-based trio, comprised of guitarist Slade Baird, bassist Thomas Alverson and drummer Adam Phillips, has been putting rubber to road in senses both theoretical and literal since their inception in 2012, developing their keen sense of harmony and interplay, honing their songwriting chops and developing an absolutely white-hot live show which has become the main vehicle for their brand of rock and roll evangelism.
The intervening years have found the band churning out a handful of releases, most notably their 2014 debut long player Might Could, playing shows numbering in the several hundreds and driving their trusty van tens of thousands of miles as they regularly traipse around the southern United States and beyond, taking their unpretentious, straight-from-the-heart shaggy dog story to the people.
Cut in the summer of 2016 with famed producer/engineer Mitch Easter at his Fidelitorium in the decidedly anti-music biz hamlet of Kernersville, North Carolina, And Friends is an album that is at once raucous yet intimate, traditional but ambitious, and finds the band culling influences from 50’s doo-wop to Hank Williams, John Prine to The Replacements, Tom Petty to Dinosaur Jr.
Building his songs from the foundation up, Baird adroitly lures the listener in, getting them moving with songs that would be at home in any honky tonk, dive bar or juke joint. But astride the plinking, pounding piano, hard-driving rhythm and swamp-scorched guitar solos sit the album’s subjects, whose true depth is revealed and unraveled upon closer inspection via Baird’s tightly packed lyrical prowess.
Blending the standard fare of exultant joy, rock and roll knuckleheadery, heartbreak, longing and love unrequited with much deeper searching, yearning and asking of the big questions (What does it all mean? Why do I matter? What comes next? What the fuck are any of us doing here?), Amigo’s songs unpack themselves slowly and show their myriad faces with each new listen.
Between name-checks of Damocles and references to the astral bodies, Amigo keeps their feet rooted firmly in the dirt as they reminisce about the old clothes we used to wear and postulate on love, sin and the path of the righteous. It is this balance of the real and the surreal, the imagined and the tactile that makes And Friends farther reaching than any adjective-laden rock subgenre.
It sounds beer-soaked but it is metaphysical. It feels heartland but it is soul-unburdening. It’s decidedly American but viewed through a philosophical lens.
Most importantly, it’s fun. It’s exuberance defined. And thus, it is rock and roll in its purest form.
And Friends is an album that encourages you to keep dreaming, to keep believing, to understand that the power of rock and roll still lives and breathes and can still offer salvation. Not surprising, then, to find that it’s progenitors are a band who play every show and sing and play every note as if it is a blessing, a celebration and welcome every crowd, every listener as if they are family.