August 28, 2008
The Trouble With the Truth
She’s no trouble at all. Patty Loveless thoroughly deserves a place among the very best of country hitmakers, and The Trouble with the Truth, the follow-up to her CMA award-winning classic When Fallen Angels Fly, is a worthy companion piece to that terrific collection. It proves Loveless to be one of the finest voices ever to record in Nashville, and with the assistance of some top-flight pickers and harmony singers (along with husband-producer Emory Gordy, Jr.), she engages her audience with a strong set of heartache and healing songs.
The toe-tapping “Tear-Stained Letter” opens the album with a Cajun feel, and Loveless sounds like she gives as good as she takes while she tells all about the man who turned her world upside down. It’s desperation at its very sweetest, and she sings the fire out of it. But the album soon reaches deep into the soulful blues that Loveless has mastered. Whether haunted by love’s memory (“I Miss Who I Was With You”) or hurt by the seeming indifference of a former flame (“You Can Feel Bad”), she connects with the material as few artists are able to do. The cause is assisted by the sweet steel guitar and the fiercely powerful fiddle that marks the most traditional tracks, along with the effective use of pop sensibilities that reinvent country music and help create a blend that Loveless can call her own.
Denial and the escape from its grasp is at the heart of The Trouble with the Truth. The album’s core is best demonstrated by the title track, a Gary Nicholson number that’s a ringing endorsement to the cold, hard truth. Loveless’ lovely rendition of the song is a stunning admission of fault and false living. She sings about how the truth has “ruined the taste of the sweetest lies, burned through (her) best alibis,” and every sin is a shadow that is a constant companion at her door, because, after all, the truth “always begs for more”. The song cuts right to the roots of what Loveless aims to do on this album: prove that while the truth can be lonely, it can also be liberating.
And nothing sings of freedom more than “A Thousand Times a Day,” where Loveless aches to break free from the ghost of an old love. Previously recorded by George Jones, it relies on an intelligent hook (“Forgetting you is not that hard to do/I’ve done it a thousand times a day”) and the impressive pipes of its singer. The cigarettes and loneliness, the booze and the burden of her past all join to confront her as demons in the darkest of nights. Pride is at the heart of every pretender, and the stubborn nature of the protagonist grows stronger with every denial. The fiddle cries with an uncommon grief, and Loveless sells it so well as to be a siren for broken hearts everywhere.
But broken hearts need healing, and that’s why the slow, swaying lessons of “Lonely Too Long” are so strong. In the morning-after moments with her one-night stand, Loveless offers kindness and comfort when guilt and shame are such common emotions. In her mind, “nothing’s wrong that can’t be cured with a new love.” Much the same lesson is taught in “To Feel That Way At All,” a ballad about the little miracles found in everyday life and love. Time almost stands still as Loveless croons over a crying guitar, considering those who embrace love to be really lucky “to feel that way at all.”
As usual, Loveless closes the album on a reflective note. With the simply beautiful “Someday I Will Lead the Parade”, she dreams of a day when “all the sweetest times will last/all’s forgiven from the past” and old friends will gather round once again. It’s a thoughtful and hopeful song, a true country music hymn, that acknowledges the struggles of the soul and the beauty when those struggles are overcome. On The Trouble With the Truth, Patty Loveless puts these morals front and center, and it makes for a terrific testament to the craft of country music.