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n her second album, Nashville spitfire Lillie Mae keeps tabs on everyone who’s spurned her, and her tightly wound voice convinces you to join in. She can calibrate her disappointment to multiple settings: damning and plaintive on “You’ve Got Other Girls For That,” deliciously scorning on “At Least Three In This Room.” She can sound coolly independent and wounded at once, evoking Dolly Parton in one breath and Ariana Grande in the next. She’s played the fiddle since she was three, touring with her family band to fairs and RV parks, and by now she can turn the country on or off as needed.
Mae’s Jack White-produced 2017 album Forever and Then Some had a hard-rocking veneer, but Other Girls (still under White’s label Third Man Records, this time produced by Dave Cobb) invites more natural light into the mix. She plays acoustic guitar and fiddle throughout, but keeps her voice front and center, floating effortlessly between bluegrass, country, and rock. She plays tag with the guitars or spars with a fiddle, singing with but not over them. At the end of “Didn’t I,” she vaults into exalted trills and yeah yeah yeahs over finger-picked guitars that seem to be goading her to go even wilder.
Like some fellow retro-minded musicians Molly Tuttle and Courtney Marie Andrews, Mae is unafraid of swampy instrumentation. Sometimes the tug of tradition can pull a little too hard. The word “dames,” when it pops up on “At Least Three,” is tough not to cringe at. But the awkward moments are outnumbered by the Dorothy Parker bullseyes: “I ain’t your only, maybe the only one who think that’s so,” she sings on “You’ve Got Other Girls For That.” It would be funny if it weren’t so forlorn and self-aware, a self-defeating joke at her own expense.