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Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some

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A quick glance at Lillie Mae’s nascent solo career might mislead some potential fans into thinking she’s an alt-country prodigy, sprung into the spotlight after just a few years in Jack White’s backing band. Truth is, Lillie Mae has been singing and playing fiddle since age seven, primarily with her siblings in bluegrass- and string band-influenced group Jypsi, and was Cowboy Jack Clement’s understudy before Third Man Records moseyed down South to Nashville. What nearly amounts to a lifetime of experience around country music is apparent on her debut solo album, Forever and Then Some.

Few, if any, country artists disinterested in being radio-friendly get any sort of widespread attention without years of hitting that grindstone and honing their craft. Even pop-friendly Maren Morris had her first album released independently way back in 2005, over a decade before mainstream labels and award shows christened her as the hot new thing. Experience may be a given, but it’s worth establishing Lillie Mae’s road-worn wisdom to keep the praise that follows from seeming like undue hype.

Instead of offering up another hip, rocking, and overplayed take on bluegrass, Lillie Mae molds the earlier traditions of string bands to suit her lyrics about love and loss in rural America. The old-timey fiddling on such songs as “To Go Wrong” could’ve been played live on WSB daily way back when solos in country music involved yodeling, not guitars.

That’s not to paint Lillie Mae and her supporting cast, including a couple of her equally talented siblings, as hillbilly music anachronisms. It’s hard to imagine lead single “Over the Hill and Through the Woods” existing without decades of blues and rock-infused roots music by Lucinda Williams and the like. The gentler “Wash Me Clean” may borrow musical elements from the past, but it’s pretty much unfathomable to think of any old-timer singing that their most grievous sins can’t be washed away.

Lillie Mae
Forever and Then Some
[Third Man]