Chely Wright

Lifted Off the Ground

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In the late 1990s, Chely Wright had number one singles and Top Ten albums. After releasing 2005’s excellent Metropolitan Hotel on the independent Dualtone, she vanished. In the intervening years, Wright endured a personal crucible that drove her to write in order to remain sane. Songs came furiously, demanding to be written. Wondering where these songs were taking her, she cold-called Rodney Crowell, whom she barely knew. After an initial meeting in which she played him her songs, Wright dropped demos into his mailbox, and insisted he email her comments on them. Eventually, Crowell gently coaxed her to make Lifted Off the Ground for Vanguard, which he produced. This period also resulted in her memoir, Like Me, published on the day of this release. Crowell’s production is simple yet elegant. Performer and producer focused on getting this beautifully articulated, brutally poignant, 11-song cycle across as directly as possible. Wright, once regarded as a singer and performer, has become a songwriter of consequence here. The set opens with “Broken,” where her protagonist addresses a lover with the same trust issues she is plagued with: ”Why can’t you just believe in me/Not everyone is the enemy…I’m wagin’ war up in my head/Last time I loved it nearly left me dead….” Acoustic guitars with a bassline pushing them are accented by a drum kit and a Fender Rhodes, which lilt around her lyrics, letting them reveal themselves airily. “Notes to the Coroner” is an uptempo tune that addresses what might once have been a real possibility. Woven electric and acoustic guitars, popping bass patterns, and subtle drums underscore her lyrics' chilling details of the protagonist’s demise as a B-3 paints the tag lines. More sarcastic than morbid, it still comes from an enormous ball of pain. Things get even darker on the haunting “Snow Globe” before they begin to transition. First, there’s self-doubt expressed on “Like Me,” before the desire for another state of being asserts itself on the rocking “That Train.” “Damn Liar” moves through anger, as country and rock meet the blues in an infectious melody. That theme is echoed in “Object of Your Rejection,” though the grain of Wright’s voice has changed: she’s squarely looking at and confronting her offender with acceptance, and this is reflected in the melody and tempo. “Shadows of Doubt” closes the set with a steely resolve that is grounded in humility and an honest vulnerability. Lifted Off the Ground is easily the most harrowing and lovely recording in Wright's catalog. Crowell’s ability to guide songs rather than helm them aided her in accomplishing the most difficult task an artist can encounter: complete reinvention. Wright has succeeded in spades.

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