Memphis belle Amy LaVere knows how to sharpen a typical story of boy meets girl into biting lyrics on heartache, throbbing with the signature sass of her upright bass. Stranger Me, LaVeres third LP, follows a consistently budding career. 2007s acclaimed Anchors and Anvils solidified LaVeres ability to write a killer Southern love ballad and artfully pair lyrics of hope and depression. Stranger Me only strengthens her repertoire of swinging doom and gloom Americana.
LaVere opens Stranger Me with a long-awaited song to a lover, framed with biting twang as she bitterly croons, “I’ll do it right now, here’s your damn love song.” LaVeres doubled-edged delivery of the affectionate hiss belies a fractured relationship that flows throughout the album, straining along with her ambling bass lines. You Cant Keep Me offers a brighter change of pace, but the lyrics find the songstress happily leaving her love: Im stomping out of here, I hope the dishes rattle off your shelf. If I see you first, Ill run like hell. Red Banks continues the smirk-laden romance retrospective, detailing an imagined dumping of her ex in the Mississippi River.
Though LaVere recorded her previous works with legendary producer and mentor Jim Dickenson, his 2009 passing forced LaVere to look elsewhere for this album. She turned to Craig Silvey, the ear behind Arcade Fires The Suburbs. His touch partnered with LaVeres style produces her most mature effort to date. Her noir songwriting style is top notch on Stranger Me, making for a breezy and mysterious listen. LaVeres knack of using minor scales and sounds often in discord paints a lush and shadowy atmosphere, brightened by her angelic voice (best heard on Stranger Me and a fantastic cover of Captain Beefhearts Candle Mambo). Stranger Me is an essential listen for any fan of soulful, gothic country and rootsy Americana. Here, LaVere shines as a bona fide Southern siren, spinning one hell of a breakup tale.