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Wednesday , December 8 2021

Britain’s Silvas finds freedom in Nashville

Simon revisits old friends

British singer-songwriter Lucie Silvas started her career with a successful major label debut in the United Kingdom and writing songs for other British pop acts. After crossing the Atlantic for Nashville, she’s found her voice again as a skilled and independent retro pop stylist.

Silvas, born in the UK but raised in New Zealand, said that after the second record came out in the UK in 2006, she was already feeling like she was moving in a different direction from her music label. She found a new musical community in Nashville, where she’s been welcomed by the city’s songwriters and artists.

“It felt like running away at first,” Silvas said. “What I found that I had either missed or wasn’t finding in the UK at that time was just a musical community, or a feeling I could get back to writing and just singing songs without feeling like I had to be something, that I had to be on a particular path.”

Even as a non-country artist without the backing of a major label, she’s been opening for country artists Chris Stapleton, Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert. “E.G.O.” is the second record she’s put out since moving to Nashville, and she explores pop music’s soul and rock origins with lyrics crafted as a seasoned storyteller.

“I love all things ‘70s,” Silvas said during a recent interview at H. Audrey, a clothing boutique owned by Holly Williams, granddaughter of country icon Hank Williams. “With the album, I wanted to bring something like that in. But I don’t want to be so throwback that it doesn’t feel new and new to me and new to anyone else.”

Inspirations

Silvas teamed up with longtime friend and British producer-writer-artist Jon Green (James Bay, Kylie Minogue) to draw on various musical inspirations, including Motown, the Beach Boys and Bonnie Raitt. But Nashville songwriters and musicians are also all over this record, including acclaimed session guitarist Derek Wells, hit country songwriter Natalie Hemby and her husband, John Osborne of the country duo Brothers Osborne.

“With ‘E.G.O.’ suddenly I was at a point where I am still independent and I’ve toured with these amazing country artists,” Silvas said. “Who is it that I am? Who is it that I’m happiest being? I’ve got a lot of things that I want to draw from, but I want to do something that is truly unique to me. I don’t want to worry too much about where this places me because I just want to go in and record songs I love.”

The title track, which stands for “Everybody Gets Off,” is an “anti-pop pop song,” Silvas said. It’s a tongue-in-cheek takedown of celebrity culture and egotism in the age of social media.

“It’s become so convoluted having your normal life on social media and it’s really bothered me for a long time and yet I’m completely part of it,” Silvas said. “Because there are days when you feel like you’re invisible if you’re not posting something or you’re not being seen. That’s a real problem.”

Similarly she addresses the pressures of living up to unreal expectations, especially for women, on the song “Black Jeans,” a Fleetwood Mac-inspired dreamy rock ballad with harmony vocals.

“I’m not here to keep up with a trend,” Silvas said of the meaning of the song. “I’m not here to be judged on my appearance or anything that appears to be a success or failure.”

And the album’s opener, “Kite,” sets the tone for Silvas’ new chapter with a foot-stomping track about a woman who can’t be tethered by any man.

“I feel like that independent woman a lot of the time because of the circumstances I find myself in musically,” Silvas said. “I feel like I’ve got a great, small team around me that is able to partner with great people just to put this music out on our own terms.”

Paul Simon, “In the Blue Light” (Legacy)

Weeks from the end of his farewell concert tour, Paul Simon has released a disc that feels like a valedictory itself.

The concept of “In the Blue Light” is intriguing, with Simon re-recording and re-imagining 10 songs he originally released between 1973 and 2011. None were hits; they’re songs he felt were overlooked as oddities, or that he didn’t get quite right the first time. While some of this material was obscure for good reason, most of the second looks reward listeners.

Originals

The revisits speak to the musical adventurousness that has marked Simon’s later years. Many of the originals were at least grounded in the folk-rock style he was primarily known for. Now Simon moves beyond: Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet replaces the acoustic guitar on “How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns” and the 1970s electric piano gives way to Sullivan Fortner’s real thing on “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy.” The jauntiness of “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” is smoothed into a loping, jazz feel. With Dixieland jazz, Spanish-style guitar and orchestral arrangements, the music is worldly and complex. He’s not kicking down the cobblestones.

Simon rewrites some lyrics, some to subtly modernize. An iPhone is added to a scene originally written before the device’s invention, and the blues band that appears by the riverbank in a lyric on “Can’t Run But” is replaced by a DJ. Most affecting is a rewritten conclusion to 2000’s “Love,” which is both more specific and more universal than the original.

Simon’s age (he’s 76) gives the material a grace not always present the first time. A song like “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy” now feels lived in, not observed by a young reporter. “Darling Lorraine,” the fourth song revamped from 2000’s “You’re the One” disc, is the new album’s centerpiece, in large part because you can feel the tenderness, comedy and sadness more acutely through Simon’s weathered voice. Simply being placed at the end of a disc where a central theme is the passage of time lends “Questions for the Angels” a poignance missed when the song came out in 2011.

The idea here is so interesting that you’d love to see other artists try it, if only to know the overlooked songs that have stuck with them. “In the Blue Light” is neither nostalgia nor a rescue mission. It’s a challenging new work. (AP)

By Kristin M. Hall

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