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Lydia Loveless Mixes Desire With Distraction In 'Real'


This is FRESH AIR. Lydia Loveless is a 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Ohio, who began her career at age 14, performing in a band with her sisters and her father. Since launching a solo career, she's made four albums, the latest of which is called "Real." Rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.


LYDIA LOVELESS: (Singing) When I'm watching on TV, and I know I shouldn't be because it doesn't compare to walking down your street.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: Lydia Loveless sings in the musical equivalent of declarative sentences. She states observations, descriptions and approximations of her emotions with direct language that doesn't have much use for metaphor or decoration. This, combined with her guitar playing on a song such as "Midwestern Guys," gives many of her songs a tough edge.


LYDIA LOVELESS: (Singing) These January nights, they really make me hate my life. And I want to get into a fight, but you already said you're not going to fall for that again this time. You want to paint you a masterpiece, but inspiration really doesn't always come out that easy. That's why they're always mad at me. You want to lock me in the kennel and then leave for Myrtle Beach, goodbye, all right. Midwestern guys, Midwestern guys, Midwestern guys, Midwestern guys.

TUCKER: Loveless traffics in songs that treat satisfying relationships as rare, fresh things that tend to spoil quickly. She doesn't spare herself in the parts she may play in these scenarios. On the song called "European," she admits she's blowing up a perfectly good romance and is now reveling in remorse, or, as she says at one point, I just want to write what's been feeling so wrong.


LYDIA LOVELESS: (Singing) There's a light on in your attic. I can see it. And it flashes for a dirty voyeur like me. There's a heartbeat on the air. I hear it, whispering beat, beat, beat, beat, beat. What's it going to take for you to let me inside? Man, I'm standing on your lawn and the grass is on fire. When I kissed you on the lips, I was being European. And, honey, come on, I just want to right what's been feeling so wrong...

TUCKER: Loveless is sufficiently intriguing and elusive to some that she's the subject of a new, as-yet-unreleased documentary called "Who Is Lydia Loveless." Her music gets slotted into various commercial categories - country, Americana, folk, rock, folk-rock, which usually ends up meaning the songs accumulate to form their own genre.

That's true of one of the album's most striking songs called "Longer," which on its surface is an example of what the poet Franco Herro once referred to as his I do this, I do that poems. Loveless sings of banal activities as distractions to keep her from being overwhelmed by gloominess or depression.


LYDIA LOVELESS: (Singing) You're tired of me hanging around, looking like I just lost a friend. Well, if I did, you don't know who. He goes to another school. 'Round 11 a.m. burn the breakfast again. Well, I don't know what I was doing, something that I saw on TV. It's true, and I need to get a clue. It's true, I need to get a clue. But give me just a little bit longer to get over you.

TUCKER: The song is called "Longer" because of the line give me just a little bit longer to get over you. What the key word also reminded me of is a variation on it, longing, the ache of desire. Lydia Loveless is an excellent artist about the nature of longing, the way it can pull you down and threaten to smother you or awaken you to new possibilities for connection and emotional satisfaction.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed "Real," the new album by Lydia Loveless. On tomorrow's show...


JOHN KRASINSKI: (As John Hollar) So how you doing?

MARGO MARTINDALE: (As Sally Hollar) I feel great.

KRASINSKI: (As John Hollar) You know, I've been Googling brain tumors - a lot more common than you'd think.

DAVIES: ...John Krasinski, who co-starred in "The Office," directed and stars in the new film "The Hollars" about a dysfunctional family dealing with the illness of its matriarch, played by Margo Martindale. We'll talk with Krasinski about the film and his nine seasons on "The Office." Hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR'S executive producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Ann Marie Baldonado, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, John Sheehan, Heidi Saman, and Therese Madden.

We'll end today's show with jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans, who died yesterday at the age of 94. Harmonica's not an unusual instrument in blues and rock, but Thielemans made it a serious instrument in the world of jazz. If you aren't familiar with his records, you've probably heard his playing on the soundtrack of "Midnight Cowboy" and in the opening theme of "Sesame Street." This is him playing "La Vie En Rose." For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.


Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.