Album Review of Rachel Brooke: The Loneliness in Me (Mal Records)
From the wilds of northern Michigan (Traverse City, to be exact!), that classic Nashville vibe has been uncannily recreated by vocalist Rachel Brooke and her studio compadres. The Loneliness in Me is the latest in a long line of solo and collaborative recorded works by this vibrant artist. All of the dozen songs here were written by Brooke, with many co-written by her husband and fellow vocalist Brooks Robbins. It’s a tight and satisfying collection filled with humor, love, heartbreak , irony and honest emotion.
The album begins with the slow and moody “It Ain’t Over Till You’re Crying.” Right away, Brooke hooks you with her angelic vocal twang as she spins a tale of love on the rocks. It’s got a lilting bluegrass feel that sets the tone she means business. “Great Mistake” is a nice mid-tempo ballad that is a mix of sweetness and melancholy. In it, she sings “I was always chasing rainbows… to be that never did grow old. While I was chasing some new heaven, someone stole my pot of gold.” Next up is a surreal and dreamy track called “The Hard Way.” This features some strong backing vocals and an interesting production quality on Brooke’s voice. When she elicits “The hard way is still a hard way to learn,” she seems to draw from personal experience.
The title track “The Loneliness in Me” is a certified single, with all the rowdiness and spirit of Loretta Lynn. Liz Sloan’s agile fiddle work really smokes and supports what sounds like an autobiographical account of Brooke’s experiences in the music biz. Her words are filled with dry humor and wit as she bellows, “I ain’t got time to worry about reality. I’m busy dreaming up tragic potentialities. I’m always prepared for any trouble unseen thanks to the loneliness in me.” It’s very tongue-in-cheek and has a good dance floor feel.
“Picture on the Wall” has a smooth and easy swing rhythm, with Jarrod Champion’s elegant Floyd Cramer-like piano. “It Won’t Be Long” is another slow to mid-tempo track, with stellar guitar and banjo accompaniment.
“The Ghost of You” further blends an ironic lyrical twist with a chilling sentiment as Brooke sings, “The ghost of you is always on my mind, the ghost of you still haunts me from time to time, the ghost of you still loves me, or so I’d like to think, the ghost of you comes back to me… but only when I drink.” And then she follows that up with a nod to Johnny Cash, with “’Cause every time I hit the streets I go out and walk the line. The ghost of you comes with me, the ghost of you is still mine.” Kudos to Dave Feeny who provides a warm and flowing pedal steel solo here.
“The Lovells Stockade Blues” adds some bluegrass flames to this collection, with a bawdy and shuffling beat. “Lucky and Alone” shifts gears, with what sounds like a relationship on the rails. It’s one of those loving and losing kind of songs where the blond songstress sings, “Lucky and alone, you’ll wake up and I’ll be gone. What good fortune to be in my company. I kept you around, but I wore the king’s crown. Your misery is clover to me, lucky and alone.”
That tongue is firmly planted in cheek again for “The Awful Parts of Me.” The hook here is delivered with a knowing grin and a pseudo femme fatale indifference: “You can have it all – revenge and apathy. You only love the awful parts of me.”
“Undecided Love” features a beautiful melody and a heartfelt lyric, with “Take all the time to decide, I’ll be here when she leaves you behind. Undecided love, call heads or tails I could be the one. In the balance I reside… my fate you decide, my love’s the undecided kind.” The album concludes with a somber and somewhat moody “I Miss It Like It’s Gone.” The song casts a gothic and surreal finale to the record and offers a nice contemplative resolve.
Rachel Brooke is an artist who comes from a musical family and embraces her country and bluegrass roots with love and appreciation. That sincerity comes through loud and clear in her songs, stories, and personality.
You can find Rachel’s upcoming shows on the “News and Shows” page of her website. She currently has shows scheduled on Friday, February 5th and Friday, March 5th at the American Legion Lounge in Grayling, MI. (Event announcements of the gigs, with additional details if you click on them, also appear on the American Legion’s Facebook page.)