Lucy Wainwright Roche | Lucy
Most Likely To: take you on a mental road trip.
Lucy Wainwright Roche may not be familiar to you yet, but chances are you’ve heard of at least one member of her musically gifted family. Let’s see, there’s her illustrious father, Grammy Award winner Loudon Wainwright III, her mother Suzzy Roche of The Roches, and half-siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright, both successful singer-songwriters. And that’s just her immediate family; the list goes on.
Needless to say, Ms. Roche has quite a few tough acts to follow. By the way, wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall during a Wainwright-Roche family dinner (slash jam session)?! Though she seemed destined to be a singer-songwriter, Roche swears that wasn’t the plan. In fact, she earned a masters degree in education and became a teacher for a few years first. Then in 2007, she sang back up for her brother Rufus on tour and the rest is history. She’s since recorded a pair of EPs, aptly titled 8 Songs and 8 More.
Lucy, her first full-length album, gets off to a slow but sweet start with “Once In,” a lilting, repetitive, rather low-energy tune. From the very first note, her voice is pure and easy on the ears, her songwriting straightforward and honest. She paints vivid pictures of life on the road–a recurring theme throughout the album.
“Open Season,” “The Worst Part,” and “Statesville” are a few of my favorites; each one is solid, consistent and thoughtfully written. “Accident and Emergency” is a poignant, perceptively told story of a Saturday night spent in the emergency room of a British hospital. I notice something new in the lyrics with each listen (“Quarter to eight I walk out on the street and Hammersmith Station’s alive / Sunday day shoppers who’ve risen from sleep, just sure that today would arrive”). Say what you will about Ms. Roche, but the girl doesn’t skimp on the details.
Repetition is the name (well, one of the names) of her game, perhaps more so in “October” than any other track. I had high hopes for this one, as it features the oh-so-seasoned Indigo Girls. It pains me to say this, but I just don’t get it. The lyrics and the syrupy melodies get on my nerves in an inexplicable way. I find myself bored, my finger hovering over the skip button every time it comes on. I wasn’t crazy about “Early Train” at first either, but that one has definitely grown on me.
There’s a fine line between serene and sleep-inducing; in a few of her songs, there are moments in which Roche comes dangerously close to crossing that line. She redeems herself with “Mercury News,” one of the livelier, more interesting tracks on the album. She certainly proves herself as a songwriter all the way through the album, but this is where it truly clicked for me that Lucy Wainwright Roche is something of a poet (“I know there must have been a way to fight the better fight / To shine like Santa Clara on its clearest night… Meet me by the water, someone’s wife and someone’s daughter / None of these will be my name today.”). This is followed by “Starting Square,” a simple but beautiful piece of music that I could listen to again and again.
Lucy wrote the first ten songs on the album, but she finishes things off with two covers. Paul Simon’s “America” suits her perfectly in every way. The second cover is a bonus track featuring NPR personality Ira Glass. The host of “This American Life” may seem like an odd choice for a duet partner in this cover of Elliot Smith’s “Say Yes,” but somehow it works.
I’m impressed by Wainright Roche in many ways. She’s an intelligent songwriter with a beautiful voice and a knack for capturing the enchantment in simple, everyday moments. Unfortunately, she doesn’t showcase much range. On the whole, Lucy is pleasant, pretty and, at times, undeniably charming, but I don’t think it will be my go-to for modern folk.