Mary Lou Lord

Baby Blue

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

For a brief point in the '90s, Mary Lou Lord was an indie rock celebrity, best-known as a pre-Nirvana paramour of Kurt Cobain and a bĂȘte noire of Courtney Love, which was enough to get her plenty of headlines during alt-rock's heyday. Lord never capitalized on that notoriety, releasing a couple of acclaimed EPs on Kill Rock Stars before moving to the Sony imprint WORK to release her 1998 debut, Got No Shadow, which retained her sensibility but polished it for a wider adult-alternative audience that never came. After that, she drifted away for a long stretch of time, quietly releasing a live record in 2001 before returning with her second full-fledged album, Baby Blue, in early 2004. During that time away, Lord didn't change her style much at all -- she's still a sweet, gentle modern folksinger whose delivery is so unassuming it can be easy to underestimate her skills as an interpreter. More than ever, she's interpreting the songs of her longtime friend and collaborator Nick Saloman (otherwise known as the Bevis Frond), who wrote all but three songs on the album (two of the songs are collaborations with Lord). He's never had a better showcase for his songs than Mary Lou Lord since her charmingly modest deliver accentuates his tunefulness as a songwriter, and it also helps sell the wry lyrics. Lord also has a knack for engaging covers, heard here on a version of Pete Ham's "Baby Blue," which rivals Aimee Mann's version from ten years ago and, best of all, a wonderful reworking of Pink Floyd's "Fearless" from Meddle. Musically, Baby Blue isn't far removed from Got No Shadow -- if anything, it's even more subdued than that largely laid-back affair -- but Saloman's production is warmly homemade, lacking the sheen of her major-label album, which, while sonically appealing, didn't quite fit Lord's deliberately low-key music. This, however, does fit, which is to the record's benefit. Perhaps this isn't quite as strong of a selection of songs as Got No Shadow, but it comes close, and the music simply feels right. Listening to this is like catching up with an old college friend and finding that, after all this time, you still share the same perspective, even if you don't see each other everyday. And that makes for a very endearing record.

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