Album Review: Chely Wright – Lifted Off the Ground

Blake Boldt | April 30th, 2010

chely-wright-lifted-off-the-groundThe 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.

4 Stars

5 Pings

  1. [...] Album Review: Chely Wright – Lifted Off the Ground Posted by in chely wright No Comments Read more [...]
  2. [...] Off the Ground” received praise from Blake Boldt’s review on “On Lifted, Wright goes public with her own private hell,” says Boldt. “During [...]
  3. [...] a complete review of Lifted Off the Ground, check out Blake Boldt’s excellent synopsis at The 9513. Here are my thought’s on the singer’s new [...]
  4. [...] Court Yard Hounds (a Dixie Chicks side project) over at The 9513 is really excellent. So is his review of Chely Wright’s Lifted Off the Ground — though I kind of wish it hadn’t been [...]
  5. [...] her mouth and thought about ending it all. Now, on the eve of the release of both her 12th album, Lifted Off the Ground, and a memoir, Like Me, Wright, 39, sat down with  PEOPLE”s Blaine Zuckerman to discuss [...]
  1. Erik
    April 30, 2010 at 7:43 am

    I am officially stoked for this new album now.

  2. Jon
    April 30, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Shouldn’t that be “self-diagnosed” rather than “self-prescribed?”

  3. Kelly
    April 30, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Wow, Jon. It’s a true wonder that any article or review gets published anywhere without your feedback. Good thing you are such a dedicated watch dog.

  4. Josh
    April 30, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Yea I second Erik’s comment…you got me drooling and anticipating bad. However I have been confused with Chely’s stuff. I really thought she was sexy and very cute with her debut as “Single White Female” and “It Was”. Then her next album project brought on the blond highlight look and the video was waaay overrated with pop influence. Kind of took her sassiness away. But if Rodney Crowell brought her into his fold of penmanship, then I’m definitely gonna give this one a spin.
    Oh and by the way, I do miss Mary Chapin Carpenter’s stuff. What’s she doing nowadays??

  5. Stormy
    April 30, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Josh: MCC released an album last week.

  6. Drew
    April 30, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Can’t wait.

  7. Matt C.
    April 30, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    “Notes to the Coroner” is a simply fantastic cut, although the rest of the album is a little too coffee house for my tastes. I think The Metropolitan Hotel was a more balanced effort.

  8. Marc
    April 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    so hot.

  9. Rick
    May 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Wow, Rodney Crowell’s involvement and potty mouth language! Goffee house or not I’d say this ain’t gonna be my cup of tea, or a frappacino, or whatever…

  10. sam (sam)
    May 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    There are rumors going on all over the web that Chely Wright is going to be coming out as a lesbian in People magazine. We’ll see if the rumors are true or not shortly. Maybe they are true or not and with the upcoming release of this CD one wonders if this is in part a publicity stunt to get some attention for her and maybe sell some CDs.

  11. sam (sam)
    May 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm has an article about Chely allegedly coming out and most of the posts below say things like “who?” et cetera. One interesting post reads in part, “I follow country music somewhat, but I’ve NEVER heard of her. And she’s coming OUT with a NEW record and a book? Desperate if you ask me. She should have came out in 2000. At least she would have had some relevance.”

    Other comments suggest that she should have released a sex tape instead if she wanted to boost her career.

    We shall see if this affects her career for good or worse. I find it hard to imagine too many people being interested in Chely’s music at this point in time. She never really convinced many people to make her a star when her music was promoted by major labels during the 1990s, so I am skeptical that she will reach a large audience.

  12. Matt Bjorke
    May 2, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Sam, Does it matter if she is or isn’t? It doesn’t matter to me.

  13. sam (sam)
    May 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Matt – It doesn’t matter to me whether she is a lesbian or not. Whether she is straight or gay has no impact on how I view her. I wouldn’t buy any of her music anyway — I heard her on radio during the 1990s and didn’t like her then. Not interested in her now, either.

    Chely probably doesn’t matter to most people. I doubt that many people know or care who Chely Wright is. At this point her music is largely irrelevant to pop culture.

    But clearly this sort of thing does matter to some people. It matters enough to Chely to either come out in a very public manner or if she is not in fact coming out, it matters enough to her that she thinks that she can gain publicity for planting a rumor that she is the one coming out.

    And Chely’s status as a possible lesbian clearly generates more interest than Chely’s music.

    However, this does matter to me in the sense that I am interested to see how coming out right before one’s music and book is released affects or doesn’t affect sales and publicity. I am also interested in gay rights and I am interested to see whether country music fans react positively or negatively.

    Honesty – I have never liked Chely Wright and I liked her even less after the “Bumper of My SUV” ordeal. But I do think it would be good if a prominent country singer came out and hopefully maintained a successful career. The problem is Chely is a has-been (or maybe a never-was). I believe it would help things quite a bit if a country star — an A lister — was able to come out and be successful.

  14. Stormy
    May 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    It does add context to some of the music on her new album, particularly “Like Me.”

  15. Jon
    May 2, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    one wonders if this is in part a publicity stunt to get some attention

    Nice use of the passive construction. “One” doesn’t wonder, I don’t guess – Sam (sam) does. Me, I don’t – not about the source of the putative rumors, not about the inability or unwillingness to understand what a “publicity stunt” really is and not about Wright’s sexual orientation.

  16. Lewis
    May 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I have a feeling that once the word comes out that Chely is indeed a lesbian that The 9513 will be lit up like a Christmas tree or a forest fire out of control.

  17. Lewis
    May 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    And it’s not the first time that a country singer has come out either. Remember k.d. lang and Kristen Hall from Sugarland?

  18. Razor X
    May 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I have a feeling that once the word comes out that Chely is indeed a lesbian that The 9513 will be lit up like a Christmas tree or a forest fire out of control.


  19. Mia
    May 2, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I’ll have to check it out. I liked some of her early stuff, but she never held my attention. It sounds like she has more to say here. I’m interested.

  20. Lewis
    May 2, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Razor X: You’ll see once the news hits on here tomorrow. I could be wrong about there being a message board flame-off because of this. We’ll see what happens tomorrow as I expect that the blog numbers will be in the 100’s range and most will not be kind to this news either.

  21. Michelle
    May 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Chely Wright dated Brad Paisley in the 90s? I never knew that. I’d like to hear “Damn Liar” sounds like something I would like!LOL! I like “White Liar” so I’ll probably like “Damn Liar” too.

  22. Razor X
    May 2, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    We’ll see what happens tomorrow as I expect that the blog numbers will be in the 100’s range and most will not be kind to this news either.

    You still haven’t explained the basis for your expectation.

  23. Michelle
    May 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Lewis, I seriously doubt that, but we’ll see. If it’s anything like you say, Brady Vercher’s gonna be a busy man!LOL!

  24. K
    May 2, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    As far as “coming out” goes, I think the reaction is different, depending on when the anouncement comes and how popular the artist is.

    For example, Kenny Chesney has been rumored to be gay. If it just so happened that he decided to retract his claims and decide he wanted to come out, his image would suffer.

    His fanbase is largely made up of young, attractive women, many of whom find him attractive and enjoy the fact that he’s a single guy they can lust over. Chesney himself brands himself with the image of a hard-partying, women loving straight man who denies any claims of homosexuality and goes so far that he even manages to make it look as if would rather be a guy who sleeps around with every woman alive rather than be known as a gay man in a “certain interview” he did awhile back.

    Choosing to come out would hurt him because his fans would be buying into something that IS a huge part of his image (sexuality). If he had been lying his entire career, plenty of his fans would turn against him.

    Chely Wright isn’t even close to a household name. Even at her peak in the 90’s, she never skyrocketed to superstardom. Because less people are buying into her image, they would be probably be less likely to care. Chely has never discussed her sexuality, and isn’t an important figure in pop culture, either.

    If you’re selling an image to a marginal audience and not making sexuality a large part of your marketed image, I think the impact on a career is much smaller.

    Even if Chely does come out, the majority of people won’t know who she is, and this ploy probably wouldn’t make people curious enough to go out and buy her music.

    Interestingly enough, I believe Chely THINKS that coming up will give some sort of boost her career- she’s been irrelevant for years, and is struggling to get noterity in the mainstream. If she didn’t think she needed to be in the spotlight, why would she feel the need to announce an irrelevant matter to a pop-culture magazine? Why would she even come out if she didn’t think it would benefit her in some way? It certaintly won’t hurt her, seeing that’s she’s long since faded into the sunset.

  25. Lucas
    May 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Chely had a great song called “Back of the Bottom Drawer” in 2005, which was really the last that we’ve heard from here. My initial thought after reading about her tough times over the past 5 years was if it had anything to do with Brad Paisley. Supposedly they were together in the early 2000s, they even appeared in a Loretta Lynn video together.

    Brad has had a wonderful life since and appears to have it all: family and super stardom, while it sounds like Chely fell apart. It would be interesting to read an in-depth interview with her about the new album.

  26. Greg
    May 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I’m not so much interest with her coming out of the closet. I’m proud of her as I can imagine it would be an extremely difficult thing to do, but she’s not relevant enough for it to make an impact on her music career.

    What I’m more interested in is that she will be the first open homosexual in country music. In a genre that is very conservative, I do wonder how the genre will react. I doubt it’ll be that big as Chely doesn’t have a lot of publicity in the industry, but it’s still interesting to see how they react. The impact would have more affect if it was someone like Kenny Chesney (I only use him because of the rumours). But it is a step forward in bringing country music music forward.

    Either was, I applaused Chely for being strong and coming out, but am also skeptical of her timing.

  27. yarrrrr
    May 3, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    “My initial thought after reading about her tough times over the past 5 years was if it had anything to do with Brad Paisley. ”

    Actually, somewhere else it was said she broke up with a girl(who is a another singer who is not officially out so I won’t repeat her name… I wonder if she outs her in her book) and she moved to New York after that…

    I wish her all the luck in the world… and I hope she gets a fair treatment from the industry and other artists… although i think her PR could have been handled better…

  28. Marc
    May 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Very saddened.. not by the choice.. fully supportive there.. but by the timing.. doing it with an album coming out.. tacky.

  29. J.R. Journey
    May 4, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I am with Marc. I think her timing to make this album part of a publicity stunt just bites.

    But I am really enjoying the album. ‘Broken’ really drew me in on the first listen.

  30. Leeann Ward
    May 4, 2010 at 6:36 am

    I love the production on the album, which I suspected I would with Rodney Crowell at the helm. I still have to listen to the songs at length though.

  31. Paul W Dennis
    May 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Chely has always been an underrated artist, I have all of her prior CDs and will buy this one two. I especially liked “Bumper of My SUV” and her remake of Arlene Hardin’s “He’s A Good Old Boy”, but basically I have liked all of her music

  32. merlefan49
    May 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    This is a non issue for me. I could care less I’ve never been fan I just find the timing a bit suspect.

  33. Leeann Ward
    May 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Here’s a good interview with her where it definitely doesn’t seem that she’s expecting to win a lot of new country fans from this announcement. She does discuss why she chose to come out now.

    At any rate, it’s just really strange to me that people are accusing her of doing this as a publicity stunt, since this would be the worst publicity stunt ever in the mainstream country music world, since country music is not exactly known for embracing progressive ideology.

    I felt this was an honest, freeing interview, which was all I had hoped for from her when I heard she was going to make the announcement.

    I hope she’s wrong about people in the industry freezing her out, but I’m guessing that she wasn’t going to get much attention from the mainstream anyway. So, it’ll be hard to know.

  34. Razor X
    May 5, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    “… I’m guessing that she wasn’t going to get much attention from the mainstream anyway.”

    Which is exactly why this isn’t as risky a move as some would have us think

  35. Leeann Ward
    May 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I agree that it’s not risky to her sales, but it is risky to the perception that people have had of her up to now, as evidenced by many comments that I’ve been reading about her (not here) ever since the rumors of the People article began.

  36. Mitchell
    May 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

    The timing of this was must have been MORE difficult for Chely. She stayed in the closet for a couple of years to get it right…her book and album. It’s horrible to be in the closet and once you decide you are going to free yourself, staying in is that much harder. I think she did so she could have a greater impact. I just finished her book and it is pretty good. She wants to help other poeople, especially kids, not have to go through what she went through.

    Y’all should read her book first, listen to the CD and then comment. This is an important step for country music fans to be open and more fair minded to gay people.

    There are plenty of gay country fans…like me…and all i want for every artist is to be honest and who tehy are. That makes the best music.

  37. Ryan
    May 30, 2010 at 1:20 am

    saying Chely has been irrelevent for years is a bit harsh, her last album generated a hit at country radio so I don’t see how suddenly this record doesn;t matter, major labels in nashville are a dying breed and Chely is on a very big indie label, Vanguard Records, I was in walmart tonight and they had over 30 copies of her new record, it;s a pretty big release. she got an end cap on the “what’s hot” section. irrelevant artists don;t get that.

    I’ve listened to the album, had it for weeks now and I think it’s fantastic. as for it being a hit or not, I don’t honestly think Chely cares. f she cared about reaching a large country audience she wouldn;t have done this album, I think with this she wants to reach the right audience for her music, she doesn’t need to cater to Reba and Toby fans anymore

    as for Kenny Chesney, any of us who frequent the clubs in downtown Nashville know which way he swings. and I don’t blame Renee Zellweger for divorcing him siting “fraud”.

    if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

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