Lilly Hiatt & The Dropped Ponies: Let Down

Let Down begins with a wonderfully washed-out sense of things going downhill, as Hiatt plaintively recalls the days “when it all felt alright”. The opener “Championship Fighter” is a master-class in descending, minor chords with thick Southern lyrics hidden away in the depths of the song. Hiatt’s voice is beautifully soft and lilting, but the lyrics have a distinctive bite which puts the record in an usual place – “that girl’s got moves/ two left feet, but she’s got killer shoes”.

Nine more downbeat songs to this standard would have been more then acceptable, but there is some variety. “Young Black Rose” is positively jaunty, as Hiatt subverts the country idea of the heartbroken woman waiting at home for her wayward husband. Instead the woman is the one always ready to leave the roost. Hiatt extends the imagery to lambast the dude who can’t cope with an independent woman, reminding him of “the time she brought the chicken home/ just to cook your eggs”.

Although this is a record with added twang, the guitars of “Big Bad Wolf” sound more Britpop (the Gallaghers, perhaps) than Nashville, and those of “Angry Moma” closer to Seattle grunge. Generally however the tracks with the more Southern inflection feel the truest. “People Don’t Change” is charmingly resigned; it’s a case of perfect timing, and simmering, contained drama when the drums gently start to pound just after the singer has told us how she wished her love life was better, and had a stronger heart. “Master and Slave” builds from the understated to a significant vocal performance, whilst the poetic lyrics of “Knew You Were Coming” demonstrate a strong literary flair. Unusual and striking, Let Down is an impressive debut.

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Label: Normaltown Records
Release Date: 06 NOV 2012

FIRST PUBLISHED BUCKETFULL OF BRAINS (ISSSUE 82)