Rock NYC Live and Recorded . Review by Iman Lababedi

A country music AOR answer to Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, Lyn Bowtell’s second album Heart Of Sorrow will be released July 11th and it is a cracker: a deep meditation on destructive adult romance, with three change of paces, enough for you to catch your breath, and yet a mood of solemn, moving and lost.

Lyn is my, I guess you’d call her, step-niece, but that will only get you so far and my deep affection isn’t for her, who I’ve never met, but for 2012′s debut album, the astonishing Secret Songs. If you haven’t heard “Beautiful Liar” it is on Spotify. Secret Songs is a wonderful album but Heart Of Sorrow is something other: it digs too deep, it leaves scars while you listen.

A country album yes, the very first song “Used To Me” is country through and through,the guitar is a classic MCA Nashville sound from the mid-80s. Kelly Willis could have covered it and Lyn’s bravado holding of long notes in different keys is absolutely magical, yes, yes, I said country. But not only country, the third song, so we are still near the beginning, “Old Habits” has the sink of Petty’s Heartbreakers, it isn’t rock but it is related to rock. A mid-tempo track but the bass notes and the rolling drums jump genres on you. “Keep Me” is a mutated soft jazz, you could imagine Anita Baker covering it and the broken up “I Won’t Let You” “seems as though you don’t call me no more, are you closing the door?” has so much story it could be from Broadway; as the last track on the album it closes the door with a bridge so tender, “how it hurts”, it ends the album on the note it is meant to, pretty much desolation.

The arrangements here are nearly perfect, fade ins, echos, drums way too up in the mix but which somehow work, guitars which shimmer out of nowhere, and Lyn’s wonderful voice, she has a good range and a sweet voice which seems seeped in feeling and humanity; really a gorgeous voice.

Along with the heart nine songs of the album,is the whistling which opens the, dare I say it, jaunty “Happy”, the joyful 75 seconds of “Best Friend” and the folkie “The Willow Tree”. I can see why Lyn included the three numbers, they are fine songs and they pull you out of your mesmerized state so when she pulls you back you find yourself deep into it again. Towards the end, “Raging Love”, “Foolish Lovers” and the quicksand “How Long” is preceded by “Best Friend” and proceeded by “The Willow Tree”, so the thought process is obvious. But I wonder if the three change of paces had been left out, maybe kept for an EP, how the album would sound. Actually, I took it for a test drive and “Raging Love” became the change of pace and the entire album is an overwhelming punch to the gut. Lyn might be quite right, it might have been too much.

If I have any problem with Lyn it is her lyric can come across as prosaic. It is a problem I have with mainstream popular music as a whole and always have: this is plain speak poetry, it doesn’t waiver but it isn’t interested in metaphor for the sake of metaphor. Hearts are selfish, habits die hard, skin is salty. But “Old Habits” is so damn beautiful, I feel like it is nitpicking, like complaining because that’s what I’m meant to do.

I was watching a documentary called “Happy” the other day, in which the filmmaker seemed to believe that the greatest thing in life is happiness. But it isn’t at all. The greatest thing in life is to feel completely alive. Hearts Of Sorrow is completely alive.

Grade: A-