Lera Lynn

Plays Well with Others

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During the earliest days of her career, Lera Lynn often seemed to operate on the fringes of Americana -- a spectral presence whose loneliness was perhaps the only indelible element in the second season of True Detective. Lynn's background role in the noir series may have pushed her onto the pop cultural radar, yet she was smart enough to dodge being stereotyped as a troubadour of darkness through her deft 2016 album, Resistor. Lynn opens up further on its 2018 sequel, Plays Well with Others, whose very title dispels the notion that she's a lonely singer. A collection of nine collaborations with other Americana artists, both old and new, Plays Well with Others is open and straightforward in a way its predecessors weren't, and that's a benefit to Lynn. Her surroundings are lightened -- they don't smolder like they did on Resistor, nor do they have the slight accents of modernity -- which shifts the focus onto her nuanced, earthy singing. She may be surrounded with a number of heavy-hitters, including the legendary Rodney Crowell, but she remains the quiet center of gravity throughout the record thanks to her voice. The duets also help expand Lynn's lexicon: when she's with JD McPherson, she indulges a bit of throwback rock & roll, Shovels & Rope conjure some backwoods goth, and when she's paired with Nicole Atkins, the results are nearly old-fashioned girl group pop. All of this moves easy -- and swiftly, too; the album is just a hair over 30 minutes -- which is another appeal of Plays Well with Others. Previously, Lera Lynn's persona seemed artfully studied but here, surrounded with sympathetic guests, she seems relaxed, as if she's settling into her own skin.

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