Lucy Billings – No Other Road
2011, Sassy Time Records
While it may be advantageous as a singer/songwriter to be your own licensing lawyer, the disciplines of writing a contract and writing a song may seem divergent to some. Nevertheless, Lucy Billings describes the two as having a “cool synergy”. Billings does bring her lawyering skills into play as a songwriter, crafting cutting incisive lyrics that cut to the heart of each subject address with an economy and skill that many songwriters would hope for, yet manages to write in a poetic and musical style. On January 18, 2010, Billings drops her sophomore album, No Other Road. The follow-up to 2006’s Open Air shows an artist who has come fully into her own.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about Lucy Billings as a vocalist is her almost conversational singing style. Without pretense, Billings lays out her songs almost as if she’s talking to her best friend. This approach gives her performances an air of authenticity that can’t be bought. Billings wastes no time letting you know where she’s coming from, opening No Other Road with “Let’s Not And Say We Did”, recalling advice her mother gave her and showing how it can apply to all sorts of situations in adult life. “As We Fly” is a gorgeous tune about love and expectations and how one can defy the other. You might call it a love song for realists. “Rear View Mirror” is a song about life’s crossroads where the choice is moving on getting stuck in a place you don’t want to be.
“Daddy’s Last Drive” explores a poetic end for a life-long denizen of the road; a compelling story and loving tribute. “From The Bottom Looking Down” is a rust belt anthem about being left without a job or a future. The metronomic feel of the song reflect the monotony and hopelessness of the situation, yet there is still, at the heart of a song, a glimmer of hope that things might yet get better. In this Billings reflects the reality of the moment for many alongside the indomitability that keeps people moving forward even in the worst of times. “Goodbye Baby” is a classic country kiss off song that’s more focused on announcing her freedom than in throwing it someone else’s face.
“My Caballo” is a love song to a childhood friend who has stayed by Billings through thick and thin. This is a great bit of sentimental songwriting that’s all heart but manages to avoid cliché. “Crossroad” is another song about decision points. In this case Billings takes on the voice of a perpetual runner who has finally found someone worth staying for. She’s afraid to take the next step but afraid what she might lose if she runs this time. It’s a great bit of songwriting that’s steeped in real life. “You Make It Easy” would seem to be the next step, the story of a female player who has finally found someone who inspires her to be a one woman man. “The Gift” is an ‘if only’ song from the midst or aftermath of a bad relationship. Billings ponders what might have happened if she’d been warned in advance about a less than ideal partner. Billings winds things up with “Leavin’ You”, a kiss off song written from a healthy place. Just a minute long, this is more of a song fragment that features just Billings and banjo. Given the flow of the album this feels a bit out of place and incomplete, but it’s a solid start on something.
Lucy Billings writes with the confident air of a practiced story-teller. Her voice puts you at ease right out of the gate, and the arrangements she crafts for her song are complete, complex and reflect a musical understanding that runs deeper than simple melody. Perhaps the only valid complaint about No Other Road is that it was five years in the making. No one will argue with the outcome, but a songwriter and performer as talented, mature and complete as Lucy Billings is one we hope to hear from more than twice a decade.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)