SXSW Day Party: Lydia Loveless

Country music needs more outlaws like this one

SXSW Day Party: Lydia Loveless
photo by Todd V. Wolfson

“It’s awfully early for rock & roll, isn’t it?” mused Lydia Loveless near the start of her noon set for KDHX’s 17th annual Twangfest at South Lamar’s Broken Spoke, the landmark honky-tonk an otherwise ideal setting. The answer was obvious, but her phrasing was telling.

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Loveless bucks at traditional country constraints. She has a punk rock heart, a voice that recalls Neko Case, and more personal drama in her songs than an entire season of Nashville. She’s an admitted homewrecker, alternatively self-destructive and spurned.

Plus, her third full-length, Somewhere Else (Bloodshot), is a statement album – full of restless and at times explicit pursuits – that announces her arrival on a national level.

“If you have a mistress, dance with her to this one,” she prefaced “All the Time” from last year’s Boy Crazy EP, a track written at SXSW last year.

On disc and onstage, Loveless exudes a confidence that defies her 23 years. “Wine Lips” and “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” rekindled the halcyon era of No Depression alt-country, assisted by an off-stage pedal steel player and a showman of a lead guitarist who put his body into every exaggerated string bend. The set was so strong it was almost easy to overlook just how much the singer was putting herself out there in the songs.

Country music needs more outlaw women like Lydia Loveless.

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