Album Review: Chely Wright – Lifted Off the Ground
The fourth track on Chely Wright’s exceptional new album, Lifted off the Ground, is a wry elegy titled “Notes To The Coroner,” sung from the perspective of a woman who’s recently expired. It begins with a half-assed apology to those she’s left behind: “I hope I haven’t been lyin’ here long,” she sings, “I’d say ‘I told you so’ but I’m long gone.” Wright, in her cool, matter-of-fact manner, describes her untimely–though not unexpected–demise. The self-prescribed cause of death: a broken heart born out of a toxic love affair.
On Lifted, Wright goes public with her own private hell. During much of a five-year hiatus from the music business, Wright–”a big ball of pain and pajamas” as she puts it on “Notes”–holed up inside her New York City apartment as she dealt with a long-term depression. Urged on by friend and mentor Rodney Crowell, she turned her personal tumult into a candid song cycle that shows just how she’s blossomed into a first-rate singer-songwriter.
Such artistic growth comes as a welcome surprise. A pretty brunette with a big voice, Wright seemed to be the conventional country music babe upon her debut. Even People Magazine took notice, naming her to its 50 Most Beautiful People list. But as Wright hovered around the Faith-Shania axis in the late 90s, she carried a different tune than her pretty peers, trending towards more quirky fare that paid little heed to Nashville formulas. Of course, she remained a mere blip on country radio’s radar, despite scoring a #1 hit with 1999′s “Single White Female.”
After a series of fits and starts, Wright parted ways with her label and went indie. On 2005′s The Metropolitan Hotel, she explored a more organic style married to her pensive stories of loss and longing. Liftedfinds her fully invested in this new vision, with arrangements that beautifully combine folk, pop and country. It covers the same musical and emotional terrain as fellow Music Row rejects Mary Chapin Carpenter and Rosanne Cash. Wright’s confessional, cut-to-the-bone songs are the work of a misguided soul; she zeroes in on their stark essence with a humid alto that’s both smart and sexy.
On the album’s opening cut, “Broken,” Wright begs to an untrusting lover: “Why can’t you just believe in me?” These matters of faith are the focus of Lfited, from the dreamy, psychedelic “Snow Globe” to the hushed, intimate closer “Shadows of Doubt.” Wright never minces words or wastes melodies. Take “Damn Liar,” a primal, lite-metal ballad that smolders with white-hot anger. Not one to shy away from pain or profanity, she issues a crude rebuke to her beloved: “Fuckin’ liar, that’s what you are.” The Alanis-like “Object Of Your Rejection” is a similarly cynical take on romance, aimed at a nasty ex who “can get away with treating people like shit.”
Obscenities aside, the language on Lifted is swift and sure and sounds like a desperate cry for freedom. On “That Train,” a smooth, wistful tune that chugs along to a chicka-boom rhythm, she yearns for a one-way trip down a lonesome track. The radiant pop-gospel number, “Heavenly Days,” is another winner, as Wright dips into her lower register to give thanks to life’s liberations. With Lifted, a more complex, complete album than she’s ever recorded, Wright has, for once, found some release.
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- Arlene: Sorry. I meant to give the link for "Supper Time." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ58Kfe41kI
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