Preview Forever And Then Some by Lillie Mae.
Forever And Then Some by Lillie Mae
Forever and Then Some, the debut album by Lillie Mae, feels new and familiar at the same time, fusing country, alt-rock, bluegrass and pop music in a way that shows off all of its influences while delivering something ineffably original.
It’s a surprising record, in many ways. For starters, while this is technically her first solo album, Lillie Mae Rische is no newcomer to the music industry. Just 26 years old, she took center stage at 16 as lead singer and multi-instrumentalist in Jypsi, a country-bluegrass band with her siblings. They scored a major label contract, played across the country and held a residency in one of Nashville’s Broadway clubs. After that, she toured as a member of rock star Jack White’s all-female backing band, The Peacocks.
Her connection to White paved the way for this recording, released in April. He produced the album for his Third Man Records, the same label that issued last year’s breakout Midwest Farmer’s Daughter by Margo Price. White clearly hopes Lillie Mae will achieve similar success. In a CBS Saturday Morning interview, he compared her to Michael Jackson; they are both the youngest child and the brightest star in a family of exceptional musicians.
Putting that comparison aside, Lillie Mae is undeniably a special talent. Her voice is incredibly flexible--swooping up and down, bending notes around the melody and flying smoothly into falsetto in mid-phrase. She is a skilled instrumentalist, too, although she rarely shows that talent off here. More often, her playing is subtle--sinuous lines that support the melody. It’s a smart choice, as it puts the focus on the tunes, all of which she wrote. It also provides the space to show off the talents of her accompanists, including her siblings, their long-time rhythm section collaborators and guests from the Old Crow Medicine Show, the Dead Weather and the Howlin’ Brothers.
The first track, Over the Hill and Through the Woods, starts with just Lillie Mae’s voice: she sings one line (“Never saw you coming”) and then the band crashes in around her, providing a strong country-rock beat. The very next tune, Honky Tonks and Taverns, delivers the kind of Texas two-step sound that the title promises.
The song with the strongest hook, Wash Me Clean, offers a traditional country mix of acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and steel guitar as an accompaniment for a memorable melody strengthened by outstanding harmony vocals. Like nearly every song on the album, it’s a reflection on the perils of loving the wrong person.
Honest and True is outstanding as well, in part because of its surprising marriage of a traditional minor key, country-rock chorus with harmonically complex verses that are more reminiscent of George Harrison than George Jones. It also features an instrumental break in which mandolin, fiddle, bass and guitar repeat an arpeggio-like riff to orchestral affect. In moments like this, Lillie Mae’s musicality shines brightest.
Still, there is plenty of traditional Americana sounds here. These Daze, for example, takes a straight-ahead country approach, including a hot Telecaster that unspools hot electric lead guitar lines. The song ends with an extended outro in which Lillie Mae’s fiddle trades leads with electric guitar and mandolin, creating a barn dance vibe.
The album ends with something completely different from the country and rock music that came before it. Dance to the Beat of My Own Drum sounds like alt-rock art, with booming drums that escaped from a late 80s studio. It is a clear statement that she intends to follow her muse where it leads. Given the music on this album that should be a rewarding decision for her and for her fans.