Album Review – Rachel Brooke’s “The Loneliness in Me”

photo: Jess Varda

Apparently not enough hearts have been broken, not enough tears cried, not enough minds sent swooning, and not enough sorrow sown. If you want something done right, you often have to do it yourself, and the Queen of Underground Country is back to show all you whipper snappers how instilling pain and heartbreak in a country song is done.

If you’re one of those souls who gets to feeling happy through sad songs, you’ve just stumbled onto the mother lode. Rachel Brooke shows no mercy to the meek and weary, with a voice filled with so much natural pain, it tightens the screws down on your emotional receptors like a vice, and with a sound so unique, it deserves its own subgenre.

Rachel Brook’s been defining the dark side of country before we knew there was one. Mixing her influences of classic country, old-school 50’s rock, and adding a pinch of punk panache to the approach, she serves up a witches brew of songs full of reverberating regret and despair on her new album The Loneliness In Me.

But don’t worry, she’s doesn’t go full goth like she’s done with some of her songs and side projects from the past, where it’s sometimes more about the artistic expression than the infectious appeal. In fact this record might be Rachel’s most accessible to date and a great entry point into her catalog, while also remaining very classic, very country, and very well-written and performed. The Loneliness In Me might also be her best overall yet.

Whether it’s the classic country material like “Picture On The Wall” or “It Won’t Be Long,” or a song like “Undecided Love” that gives you all kinds of darkish Debbie Reynolds vibes, or when Rachel Brooke goes full Countrypolitan in the string-laden “The Awful Parts of Me,” she knows how to work irony into nostalgia in ways few others understand, let alone can master at this level. It’s all so unsettling, but in a way that’s strangely comforting.

It’s been eight years since Rachel Brooke graced us with a new album, but she hasn’t been idle over that time. Along with releasing the second installment of songs with collaborator Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards in 2015’s Bad Omen, she also released a Modern Mal record with her long-time musical partner Brooks Robbins in 2017.

Collaborations have always been one of Rachel Brooke’s strong suits as songwriters and performers from Jayke Orvis to Justin Wells line up to figure out some way to get her voice on their records. This is how she became the Queen of Underground Country. But her singular gift and regal crown comes with an incredible burden, as she sings about in the title track. “I sit upon my worry throne in a Queendom that I rule alone. That’s the loneliness in me.”

Pegging the needle on the cool meter, and working in all the darkest of human emotions, Rachel Brooks turns in an immersive work ripe for the haunting season, but one that will be evergreen in appeal to those dark souls who find their solace in sadness.


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