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Lydia Loveless performs at Soda Bar in San Diego.

Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless at Soda Bar, November 1st, 2011

Nov 02, 2011 Lydia Loveless
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While 21-year-old Lydia Loveless introduces the last song of her set, the title track of her 2010 debut album, The Only Man, she says matter-of-factly, “It’s about shooting your dad in the face.” She’s not kidding; that’s indeed what the song is about. A gruesome tall tale of love lost, “The Only Man” epitomizes the firebrand spirit of the alt-country singer/songwriter/guitarist. Loveless (a stage name) sings about hard drinking and breakups, par for the course in country music, and while there’s some posturing with recurring f-bombs, her lyrics more often are candidly self-reflective, delivered in a robust voice tinged with heartache. On “Crazy,” the final track on her excellent sophomore album, Indestructible Machine, she dreads impending sobriety, confessing that she knows she’ll be forced to “regret all the disgusting things I know I said.”

“This song is about being stalked,” Loveless said while introducing “Steve Earle,” from Indestructible Machine. The song is based on a real-life stalker experience. Though it name checks Earle and alludes to his son, Justin Townes Earle, those references were included only as a gimmick.

Loveless has been compared to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Neko Case, and there’s a definite vocal likeness to the latter on the first two tracks of Indestructible Machine, released on Bloodshot Records, Case’s former label. Galloping songs such as “Always Lose” (from The Only Man) and “Can’t Change Me” (Indestructible Machine‘s second track) sound like Case fronting Old 97’s. At Soda Bar in San Diego, with Loveless’s red hair falling over one eye, there was also a physical resemblance to Corin Tucker, another singer diminutive in frame yet equipped with vocal power.

On Indestructible Machine, Loveless’s songs are fleshed out by banjo, second guitar, pedal steel and violin. At Soda Bar, she was backed by only a drummer (her dad) and upright bassist (her husband, who effectively added color by sometimes bowing the instrument). She didn’t reveal her bandmates’ names or their relationship to her, but told the audience how the drummer fell off the stage in Dallas on Friday night and hurt his hand, which she blamed on the bassist. “They all suck,” she said, before adding, “No, just kidding. That’s my way of making jokes onstage, to belittle my band.”

Loveless performs mostly stationary, leaving her bandmates to add the visual theatrics. At times, she sang and strummed with her feet planted together. But, on lively rockers such as “More Like Them,” her vocals are such a lifting force that motion seems inconsequential.

Loveless plays tonight at Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles.

Soda Bar setlist:

Bad Way to Go

Always Lose

Can’t Change Me

Steve Earle

More Like Them

Jesus Was a Wino

Learn to Say No

Wishing on Her Star



The Only Man



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