Talented songwriter Lera Lynn set herself a challenge on this new album – to head out of her comfort zone and write with other musicians. She hoped to try something different and maybe even have a little fun. Plays Well With Others, the result of these intriguing collaborations, showcases Lynn’s stylish charm throughout its nine songs.
Starting with the understated Same Old Song, featuring Peter Bradley Adams this quiet slice of jazzy folk noir sets the tone. The album may be billed as duets but on some songs, including this one, her partner is in the background, adding textures and layers to her dark Americana sound.
Album producer John Paul White makes a welcome appearance on the songs Lose Myself and the final track Almost Persuaded. Both songs echo the style of his much-missed band The Civil Wars, his voice somehow makes everyone he sings with sound their best. I’ll lose myself in you, they both sing, happy to disappear into each other. Almost Persuaded is the most country sounding thing on the album, a heartbreak honky tonk song from 1966 whose wounds still sound fresh today.
What is Love features Dylan LeBlanc and his distinctive voice is a nice contrast with Lynn’s, creating an atmospheric sound. On Breakdown the voices of Lynn and Andrew Combs meld together into one cohesive whole, telling a bittersweet tale about the end of a relationship. Crimson Underground with Rodney Crowell is a slow languid shuffle, and the TV On the Radio cover Wolf Like Me with Shovels and Rope continues in that same seductive style.
The best two songs on the album are actually hidden away towards the end of Plays Well With Others. Nothin to Do With Your Love is a stomping little rock song, featuring JD McPherson. This unexpected moment allows Lynn to break free and express a different side of herself than on the rest of the album. And then the classic fifties style ballad Another Life follows – it’s a little beauty about longing and lust, sung with the help of Nicole Atkins. This song is so great, perhaps it would have been nice to have a few more all female songs on here.
Despite working with a varied mix of artists the album retains its sense of unity, guided by the force of Lynn’s quiet power. Sharing the spotlight actually allows her to shine a little brighter. Plays Well With Others is a short album but there is much to admire and enjoy in these excellent collaborations.