If you are even an occasional reader of this online publication then you probably already know how we feel about Lula Wiles. From the moment I first heard the voices of Isa, Ellie and Mali sing together I was enthralled and smitten. Ever since the first time I saw them at Club Passim the girls have only matured and honed their craft exponentially and the debut record is a prime example of a band who was smart enough to spend the time getting it right and THEN made a record, rather than just going into the studio and seeing what shakes out.
I may have dried out my entire vocabulary for words meaning “beauty”, “badassery”, and “brilliance” so rather than write a review of the debut record from the trio I figured I would just provide you with a list of the 10 reasons you need to quit what you are doing right now and buy this thing…
1. Multi-Instrumentalist: noun, a musician who plays two or more musical instruments at a professional level. A lot of bands have one of these types, a guy or gal who plays guitar and dabbles in piano or something, but all three of the lady Lula’s play more than one instrument…and do so incredibly well. Live, at a show, its always a wonder to watch a band artfully toss instruments back and forth at each other and exchange responsibilities. Which leads us to…
2. Its rare that a band has more than one front person…but the Lula’s give you 3 different flavors, trading duties on solo-ing, singing, and songwriting with all 3 of the gals in the band not only supporting one another on songs but also trading the duties in songwriting and vocal leading. Each of them have at least one writing credit on the new record and where some auxiliary players who try and take the spotlight fall flat; Ellie, Isa and Mali all hold their front woman duties with the utmost zeal, passion and talent.
3. Harmonies that will melt you into a puddle…enough said there. “Good To You” is a personal favorite that will shake your knees and make you need to grab a seat. Tender and heart wrenching. Those “ooooh’s” get me every time.
4. Flatpicking guitar solos that would make Doc Watson proud and soaring fiddles that give you chills. Live, Isa Burke always elicits an eruption of applause from a crowd when she launches into a flurry of notes and on tune like “Don’t Ask Why” from the new record we get that cascade of picking in spades during the breaks. Never leaving us hungry for the bluegrassy-fiery, goodness that we yearn for…then there’s the fiddles, and double fiddles, so much fiddle goodness spread throughout the record with Ellie Buckland and Isa Burke trading lead duties, giving the flavor of each musician and broadening the sonic scope. Bliss.
5. Going electric…it isn’t often that a band can leave their comfort zone, explore new horizons and be so successful. Where the trio has previously been known as a roots heavy outfit, with deep inspiration in the traditions of acoustic based American roots and folk music, they have added and experimented in a way that only complements their existing aesthetic in a beautiful and exciting way. Expanding the music rather than changing it. A lot of care went into the thought process behind those arrangement decisions, and it shows.
6. Real, heartfelt and introspective songs. Songs of loss and heartbreak but with glimmers of hope. Sad songs make the world go round and the Lula’s write in way that isn’t overly complicated or drenched in metaphor. They write from the heart and a place that is genuine and deliver each phrase with a conviction that cuts to the bone.
7. Sean Trischka….ok, well maybe just the decision to highlight drums, but Sean, man he plays the hell out of them. Ok, Sean it is. The addition of drums to the live set has infused an energy and rhythm that really drives the songs. Making them and Sean a prominent piece…almost a 4th Lula…on the record has further expanded that spirit and vivacity in the songs in a really wonderful way.
8. Balance. While the edition of what may be classified as a more rock n’ roll aesthetic with electric guitar and percussion, the girls have struck a great balance between the new and the old. With tracks like “Mama” and “Sorrow Be The Bird” taking a page from the book that made me fall in love with the band in the first place…3 voices and 3 instruments in brilliant harmony and balance with one another…and creating a polyphonous magnificence that again…like number 3…melts me into a damn puddle.
9. Production value. In a way, I think that most bands are best to experience live What the band has done alongside producer Adam Iredale-Gray and engineer Dan Cardinal is broaden that live experience in the studio without compromising any of the je ne said quo that makes seeing Lula Wiles at a show so special. They have captured that magic on a recording…sans clinking glasses or coughing from the crowd…and thats a special thing to be able to physically pick up, put on your stereo and experience over and over again.
10. Perhaps the most important reason you need this record…because it is so important to support incredibly talented artists who truly deserve it. These three deserve it. Their art will be good for your soul. Seriously, this music will add years on your life because it releases dopamine or endorphins or reduces the release of cortisol which will kill the sh*t out of you. Just go buy it…RIGHT NOW. HERE.