I just returned from Idaho and have been in a kind of funk all week after leaving the land of glitter and wildness and returning to flat, industrial Cleveland. I haven’t listened to any music because nothing seemed to fit my funk. Today I am having some friends over to make tiramisu (actually, it’s beeramisu because we’re making it with craft beer instead of coffee) and needed some music to play. I found Lulu Mae in my inbox. My inbox knows me so well. This was exactly what I needed. Lulu Mae is a folk band, eight storytellers who rock and roll like no one’s business. But, you should make it your business because these are good-natured folk with some good music to share with you. Mean River is their third album, my favorite so far, and hopefully not their last!
The title track opens with glorious, soaring, acapella harmonies. Male and female voices, in the silent spaces a dissonant guitar pines for company. Then, the music breaks and the instrumentals crash down upon us all in a shower of gold dust and memories. The lyrics are intelligent, organic, and beautiful. This is foot-stomping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music.
“The One We Do Together” begins with a “Hey!” and some trumpet. Those are good signs of a great song. They lyrics start slow and rhythmic. Did I mention that this band has seven members, including two drummers? There is a lot of percussion, solid rhythm drives these songs along. There are a lot of voices, or only one. Sometimes male, sometimes female. This song uses both, separately and together. I am really sold on that intermittent trumpet and the lyric, “the things that last forever are the ones that I’m gonna fight for. I won’t be dyin’ on a mountain for anything less than them.”
“Memphis Woman” catches you with some bass. Bass drum, bass guitar, joined by electric guitar, organ sounds, voices telling the story of a heart that was broken in two. “I’ll get you a Memphis woman and she’ll put it back together for you…and when they shake them Memphis hips, you forget all the ones before.” The girl they describe is fun, loyal, honest, and just wants to have an excellent time dancing the night away. I wish that I could see this song performed live. I bet that it ignites audiences everywhere the way that it is igniting my living room right now.
“Summertown” has a deeply melancholy sound to it. It is the sound of feet trudging through snow for miles. The verses and sweet, sad, and rhythmic. The choruses are rocking, rolling and shouting. The swelling of the instruments, the voices carries your heartbeat and emotions along with it so easily. The characters in the story plod along, finding refuge in each other.
The album concludes with “Potomac”. “I can feel the river clapping, clapping, clapping to my song. And the old Potomac, she is laughing.” I wish that I could just write out all of the lyrics to this song, and leave it here instead of just talking about it, but that’s not my job. Honestly, you should just go buy it, close your eyes and put the album on repeat for a while like I did yesterday. It is anthemic, beautiful, effervescent, and sincere. This is a song that I will sing to my hypothetical future children.“And whenever I’m alone, or if I am here with you, I know that I’ll be happy. Happy.”
Please go check out this album. There is so much more than just the few songs I tried to represent here. There is a gorgeous ballad of a modern day Jacob and Esau, there are heartfelt moments and there is rock and roll. This album is beautifully balanced. Lulu Mae is a talented group of musicians–all kinds of people from a few different families. Their lead singer is attending med school and the rest are spread across Tennessee. We have been promised that Lulu Mae is still alive, despite it being inconvenient for the members. Support this music so that more can come from these artists.