Lilly Hiatt – Trinity Lane
New West – 2 February 2018 (UK)
The end of a lengthy relationship and having to resist falling off the wagon after five years of sobriety were both touchstones for Lilly Hiatt’s third and rockiest album, Trinity Lane, its title is taken from where she was living in East Nashville during its writing. The album was produced by Michael Trent who also provides most of the instrumentation and, along with his wife and Shovels and Rope partner, Cary Ann Hearst, the backing vocals. Hiatt wastes no time in jumping right in with the album’s most melodic and immediate cut. The sway-along All Kinds of People documents her lover leaving (“I love you like you love the ocean, and that’s where you’re going, and it’s ripped me apart”) and putting up the house they shared for sale.
Continuing the same line of thought, it gets even more muscular with The Night David Bowie Died. The song is not a lament for the Thin White Duke but a reflection on not being able to ring her ex and share the sense of loss. It unfurls into both an apology (“I’m sorry I was such a bitch that night in the city”) and regrets for screwing things up, striking a poignant image as she sings about having left a few things in the house as a kind of reminder she was once there.
Opening with the line “I get bored, so I wanna get drunk”, the title track addresses the sobriety issue to a persistent jabbing guitar riff that seems as if it’s about to break out into Ca Plan Pour Moi, at one point ripping open into a Trent solo.
The slow sway of Everything I Had, where she sings about giving her all to someone who didn’t deserve it, who called “because I was easy”, strikes a more a more musically soulful tone. Then it’s back to chiming Southern country rock for I Wanna Go Home, a relatively straightforward number about trying to find herself again where she puts on her best vocal twang.
There’s more twang, this time from the resonator guitar, on Imposter, a jaunty rhythmed biographical sketch of her family, a thank you note written for her father, John Hiatt, who, despite the years he spent out on the road while she was raised by her aunt, always came back, “a guiding light when I hear you sing.”
Appropriately enough, it’s followed by Records, an organ driven catchy chugging chorus-powered love letter to the power of rock n roll to carry you through and save your soul, only for the mood to shift dramatically as a lonesome harmonica introduces Different, I Guess, a slow, pedal steel stained country waltz that takes her back to the collapse of her relationship and the profound hurt it caused as she sings “I don’t think you’ll ever know how deep that I went” before the drums build to a flow before the resigned ebb.
Not a Beautiful South cover, but with a similar idea about getting away to try and escape things you can’t let go of but still feeling the loneliness, Rotterdam is a slow, soulful organ-driven southern country chug, while the slow striding Sucker returns to the theme of separation and regret, but is probably the weakest of the album’s tracks.
It goes out in flames, however, firstly with the highly personal self-portrait of So Much You Don’t Know, a confessional country ballad in the classic mould where she talks about the things she doesn’t wear on her sleeve and, finally, the bluesy slow burn riff sign off See Ya Later that leaves her still wanting, but accepting that “it’s better if I don’t know where ya are.”
It may not all be wholly autobiographical in a literal sense, but the emotional authenticity is clear, another terrific example of how exposing and exorcising personal pain can produce an artist’s best work while touching universal chords and perhaps giving voice to those less articulate in seeking catharsis.
Lilly Hiatt – April 2018 UK Tour
Weds 18 April – WITNEY – Fat Lil’s
Thurs 19 April – MANCHESTER – Gullivers
Fri 20 April – LEEDS – Seven Arts
Sat 21 April – NEWCASTLE – Cluny
Sun 22 April – BIRMINGHAM – Kitchen Garden Café
Tues 24 April – SHEFFIELD – Greystones
Weds 25 April – LONDON – Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club
Thurs 26 April – MILTON KEYNES – The Stables
Photo Credit: (press image via New West Records) Alysse Gafkjen