Audra Mae - The Happiest Lamb
Record Label: Side One Dummy
Release: May 18th, 2010
Audra Mae makes me think coffee shop music. This isn’t a CD I would pull out for car sing-a-longs or when having friends over for a barbeque. This probably isn’t even a CD I’d ever listen to often enough to really learn the words to the songs either, honestly. This is music you listen to at a coffee shop – background music while you’re reading or drawing, if you will. This is soothing music at its finest.
Audra Mae approaches her music with a beautifully stripped-down voice; but it’s beautiful music in the minimal sense. This is country at its roots – in heartache and an acoustic guitar, in the soul of a woman who found her voice in indie-folk music.
The Happiest Lamb’s title track may show the strongest overall production of the entire CD. It is slightly dance-y, slightly jazzy, and offbeat in its own wonderful way. Something about the opening segment makes me think Arabian nights in that Disney’s “Aladdin” sort of sense. This is the closest Mae gets to anything you may find on mainstream radio, as the remainder of the album’s tracks fall more into the soft chords of an acoustic guitar and little more.
When I stop to pull myself out of the trance of this soft, tambourine-and-accordion-tinted CD, the lyrics of each song really do stick with me in a notable way. “I made lightning in a bottle, but I forgot the recipe,” she laments in the obviously named track “Lightning In A Bottle”. The words are carefully chosen and so uniquely presented that they carve out a niche in my thoughts, repeating themselves in my head throughout the day. She is not pretentious in her words, but neither does she scrawl her thoughts out in the thoughtless diary style that too often litters radio stations and top 40 charts. She finds the perfect way to rework the thoughts in our heads that we were never quite able to piece together ourselves.
The Happiest Lamb’s closer track “Little Sparrow” is a soulful revival of a Dolly Parton classic, fittingly accompanied by the dark tune of a piano rather than Mae’s trademark guitar. “All ye maidens, head my warnin’. Never trust the hearts of men. They will crush you like a sparrow, leaving you to never mend,” Mae gives a heartbroken warning to her listeners. Her voice falls and rises with the piano keys, drawing the album to an achingly emotional end.
Take The Happiest Lamb as you will. Mae’s music will put your soul at rest, while her words may crack your heart in the weakest of spots if you take the time to absorb the full impact of her on-the-mark lyrics.