Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lydia Loveless deserves more Toronto love

photos by Jeff Ross

Bloodshot Records sent me Lydia Loveless' Indestructible Machine in the summer of 2011, but it wasn't until I heard online friends talking about it towards the end of the year that I got around to listening to it. I'm glad I did, as it was narrowly edged out of my top 10 list.

I caught a snippet of the this young whippersnapper on stage during the Bloodshot party at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas in March, but wanted to hear more. That chance came on Monday night when the singer, songwriter and guitarist brought her rock-solid three-piece band (which includes husband and stand-up bassist Ben Lamb) to Toronto's Drake Underground.

These Columbus, Ohio cats play gritty, rocking country music with hooks. They respect the genre's roots, but add their own punky flair to songs about drinking ("Back on the Bottle"), drinking ("Wine Lips"), "creepy old men" ("Steve Earle"), sex dreams ("Head") and more drinking ("Do Right").

Loveless is tiny but has a powerful voice and comes across like Neko Case's spunkier little sister -- and Neko can be pretty damn spunky.

Want evidence?

"I haven't got my period on this tour yet," Loveless told the audience of just 25 people, almost all of whom were sitting on benches that shouldn't have been placed in front of the stage.

The band had almost no energy to feed off from the crowd and, while the musicianship was sharp and the songs held your attention, I couldn't help but feel that more enthusiastic reactions to each number could have spurred the quartet on to a higher level.

The 50-minute set also included "More Like Them," "Chris Isaak," "Jesus Was a Wino," "Learn to Say No," "Crazy" and "Can't Change Me." I was essentially there to hear Indestructible Machine, but it was good to get a few other songs, too. A couple of choice covers might have been nice to stretch things to an hour. But all in all, it was a satisfying show.

Loveless has a bright future, but she'll have to be patient in building her following. Landing a well-placed opening slot on tour with a like-minded but more popular act would be a good step to enabling her to expand a Canadian audience that I'm sure will appreciate her once they get to know her.


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