Olivia Ellen Lloyd describes her sound as ‘country music with feelings’, embracing the traditional, original intent of the genre before it got hijacked by pop music production and lyrics devoid of any kind of meaning beyond beer, trucks and saying the word ‘girl’ repeatedly. Originally from West Virginia and now based in Brooklyn, her new album Loose Cannon is a collection of brilliant sounding songs which deal thoughtfully with themes of loss, identity and sorrow.
At its best, country music is about being truthful about who you are and where you come from – for better and worse. Shepardstown is the name of the place for Lloyd, where there’s nothing much to do except hanging around. Getting out is all you can dream of, or you end up living with ghosts. Musically her band sound fantastic, mixing a ragged and raw country sound with her authentic and emotional storytelling.
Her songwriting is personal and heartfelt, especially on Emily which is dedicated to a friend who sadly died. The song’s exploration of pain and grief is touching but what really speaks to me is how she transforms her friend’s memory into pure light – by the end of the song it’s like she’s still living out there in the blue, radiant and beautiful. It’s a deeply moving and inspiring tribute.
The album is also filled with some brilliantly infectious honky tonk twang on songs like ‘Excuse Yourself’, ‘High & Lonesome’ and ‘For God’s Sake’. On songs like River Run and Sorrow her distinctive vocal cuts right through to the core, conveying the emotional heart of her experiences.
On ‘West’ she muses about her belonging and that sense of wanderlust some of us can’t shake no matter where you travel. By the end of the album we go to the mountains on the mournful, melancholic In The Valley – a wistful contemplation of suffering and sadness.
What Olivia Ellen Lloyd understands is that maybe the only defence against the pain of the past is to sing it out, listen to the sad songs and allow the old instruments work their soothing comfort on your soul. Sink in and let Loose Cannon take you away.