One of the issues facing Americana music is that nobody really seems to know where it fits in the music world. But the deeper dilemma is that many of the artists that claim allegiance to Americana don’t really know where they fit in the music world either. Deep, cerebral songwriting with a prominent roots influence is of course the universal factor in Americana music. But sonically, it’s a hodgepodge, all over the place, with artists often pinballing between sounds and producers, unsure of who they are musically, which can be a little messy and disorienting.
There’s no worries about that with Lilly Hiatt. She found her definitive sound and style, and stuck the landing with her last critically-acclaimed record Trinity Lane in 2017, and is now back for more with her latest record Walking Proof. The sound of Lilly Hiatt includes some rock and roll energy and abandon, a little psychedelic fuzz when it fits, but then will transition to a more rootsy mood just at the right time, and even country finds its way into the mix in opportune moments to make the experience grounded and widely appealing. It’s Americana, but with a plan and purpose, blending influences into a sound that’s diverse, but signature to her.
There’s no separation between music, mood, and message with Ms. Hiatt. The songs dictate their own direction. The band rises to meet her energy in the pulsating “Little Believer,” or hushes up and dials it down for the intimate moments of “Scream.” Sometimes the music vacillates between both loud and soft in the same song like in the opener “Rae,” but it always feels just about right, and emphasizes the melody, making Lillie’s music easy to love, and easy to lose yourself in.
Lilly Hiatt is the sage of the apartment dwellers, the bad planners, the people with big hearts, bigger dreams, but bad execution. She’s the siren for those who eat candy for lunch in their early 30’s, like she sings about in the fifth song of this album. But hey, don’t judge. She’s doing the best she can. And behind this sweet little mess is a strong perseverance and lessons learned, always striving to get better and find her proper place.
Putting smart words and fun music behind major moments in life is Hiatt’s stock-in-trade, custom fit for those stuck somewhere in between being adults, and actually succumbing to adulthood. Love and heartbreak is a common theme of course, like the disappoint of lost opportunities found in “P-Town” or the tale of how some never address their dilemmas, but just spend a lifetime running from them in “Move.”
You have to be cool with some rock music if you’re gonna get into the full Lilly Hiatt experience, but if you’re search for the more country moments, maybe start with “Candy Lunch,” working into “Walking Proof,” and then into the well-written “Drawl.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell if Lilly is singing her words of assurance to herself or the audience. But either way, you take them to heart, and they’re appreciated. In the world of Lilly Hiatt, everyone’s accepted, not just in spite of their flaws, but sometimes because of them. Come as you are.
There may not be that one monster song on Walking Proof like Lilly had with the title track of Trinity Lane. But she gives you a lot to enjoyably listen to, backstopped by meaningful songwriting that makes you believe you’re not alone in your struggle to find proper footing in the real world.
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