Lillie Mae

Other Girls

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Collaborating with producer Dave Cobb helps Lillie Mae simultaneously sharpen and expand her focus -- a nifty, subtle trick that fuels Other Girls, her second album for Third Man Records. Lillie Mae operates in an undefined territory where ancient and modern music meet, a place where bluegrass can seem spacy but not quite lonesome. This is a distinct, delicate balance, one she hinted at on Forever and Then Some, but Other Girls benefits from Cobb adding a sense of spectral melancholy to the proceedings. It's a quality that's thankfully not overplayed; it's there just enough to add dimension and mystery, emotions that still linger when the record turns and eases into something a little simpler. Lillie Mae's high, keening voice is suited for such stylized plaints but the reason Other Girls works as well as it does is that it's not solely sad. The record is filled with flinty defiance and sly humor, and it's all unified by a fearless sense of adventure. Because the record ends with the dark, swirling mini-suite "Love Dilly Love," the fearlessness leaves a lasting impression, but it doesn't overshadow "Crisp and Cold," "You've Got Other Girls for That," and "Terlingua Girl," songs where Lillie Mae sings with tenderness and steel; songs that manage to turn old traditions into something surprising and new.

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