An earthy, rootsy, sexy sound on Bobbie Lancaster’s self-titled debut solo album flows through the record’s ten cuts, showing Lancaster as a folk and Americana artist who is set to become a worthy Hoosier contributor to the modern heartland sound. Album opener “What You Do To Me” lays the blueprint for the record: soaring vocals that build, almost so subtly, that by the end of a song, you’ve got goosebumps. Her voice is that expressive.
Whether it is through the epic story of a woman losing her husband but not her faith on the “Tragic Tale of Maggie Donovan”, or the true life “Edie’s Song” about her daughter, Lancaster writes concisely, with a healthy detachment paired with emotional experience, about life.
Lancaster and her studio band, who cut the record at Farm Fresh Studios in Bloomington, are sympathetic to the needs of the songs. Never overpowering a tune with exclamation points, they smartly opt to fill the space with music augmenting the singer’s ability to warm the project with her voice. It’s the sound of players who know when to rise and when to lay back. Make no mistake, in my lexicon of definitions, this is a rock record; not bam-crash-bang rock music, but rock in attitude. It’s strong, vulnerable, honest, and with subtle musical hooks grabbing even more sharply aftermore than one listen.
“Fading” is one of four songs that features Jennie Devoe on background vocals, and a nod to the woman who, along with Carrie Newcomer, sets the bar in Indiana for performing female singer/songwriters. Lancaster’s Bloomington home gives her a rural twist on Devoe’s soulful delivery.
Halfway through the album, “I Don’t Want to Miss You” and “Oh Carolina” hit back-to-back, with a pounding and pulsing sound, adding Hammond B3 gospel attitude. This sound and understated power, coupled with her folkier leanings, give the release a richness that makes it a complete record. The best section of the album? It’s the middle part.
“Songbird” rings of classic country, with it’s story of a singer in a bar, adding Floyd Cramer piano and echoes of The Band, John Prine and even some Loretta Lynn and Joan Baez. The lyrics dig back to a Dylan “Chimes of Freedom” influence, with a “songs for the broken and lonely” lyric.
Jason Wilber guests on guitar on two cuts, including Edie’s Song”, and brings a prominent-but-tasteful heartland guitar layer to the songs. The album closer is “Surrender”, a duet with Suzette Weakley, Lancaster’s former songwriting and singing partner in Stella and Jane.
While Lancaster’s voice is capable of soft-but-not-quite-breathy passages, she proves again and again capable of powering songs, music and the band to another level – a quality in her that makes it purposeful to take notice. It’s no empty exercise; she is here to stay. With her ability to write (she wrote or co-wrote every song) intelligent, thoughtful lyrics and music, Lancaster has the whole package. The band fits her nicely, and the songs shine. An incredibly mature debut solo record.