The fluke smash hit of Lisa Loeb's debut single, "Stay (I Missed You)," in 1994 was a blessing since it gave her a career, but a curse since it defined her career. For many, she was just a one-hit wonder, and it took her a long time to shake that stigma as she kept cutting records and cultivating a cult audience. She lost her major-label deal in the process, but majors weren't suited for her anyway since it forced her to work on a scale that was too large for the modest music she made. In 2004, a decade after "Stay," she had signed to Rounder's Zoe subsidiary, a better fit for her warm, low-key folk-pop and ballads, as The Way It Really Is, her first album for the label, proves. Quite simply, it's the best, most cohesive record she's made, a clean, crisp collection of well-crafted, gentle tunes that slowly, surely work into the subconscious. Loeb co-produced the album Dweezil Zappa, and they never overdress the songs, nor do they rely on Spartan, all-acoustic arrangements; they let the music breathe, sometimes adding layers of guitars and keyboards, sometimes keeping it to just her and another instrument or two. The Way It Really Is is still a quiet, modest album, but that's its appeal -- by being sounding so modest, Loeb's skills as a songwriter stand out, as do her charms as a singer. It's a sweet, ingratiating album, the first that she's made to truly deliver on the promise of "Stay," the one that offers definitive proof that Loeb is more than a one-hit wonder.
The Way It Really Is Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine