The Best of 2017

A very good year in music.

First off nice to see both Sarah Shook’s Sidelong (my co-album of the year last year) and Lydia Loveless’s Boy Crazy collection on many year end lists. They’re not on mine only because they’re reissues. You already know how I feel about both of these artists.

Speaking of reissues, they truly rocked this year. From the Savage Young Dü collection from Hüsker Dü to the amazing deluxe reissues of Wilco first two albums AM and Being There. As did live records. Both The Replacements’ For Sale and Lydia’s Live from the Documentary Who Is Lydia Loveless? (which, yes, I am responsible for bringing to life) are as good, if not better, than any studio album released this year. But that’s not the essence of my top ten list.

It’s about new music.

So, here now, are my ten favorite records of 2017.


The Order of Time – Valerie June – There was no album I returned to on a more frequent basis that June’s brilliant sophomore effort. This record is all about a vibe that just sinks its slightly gritty under the nails claws into you and never lets go. Part old school Americana (think the old 78s that were recorded live in the 20s), part soul, with a voice that sounds wise beyond its years. Add to that the most perfectly subdued production and a collection of songs that seem to get better with every listen, and you’ve got an instant classic. This is a record that will sound even better a decade from now.

Deep Dream – Daddy Issues – Finally a new take on the riot grrl sound. Noisy and sweet at the same time, any band that could make Don Henley’s Boys of Summer worth listening to has to be doing something right.   This is the late night, drive fast, slam your fist against the steering wheel, scream along album of the year. Fuck, yes!

Anything Could Happen – Bash N Pop – The best solo record from a member of The Replacements since Westerberg’s Stereo/Mono seventeen years ago. Tommy Stinson just knocks it out of the park with a great collection of songs. His voice has never sounded better, and that familiar guitar sound is like an old friend coming to visit carrying a bottle of good bourbon and a six pack of beer. I’m not putting this on the list because he’s a former member of the Mats, it’s here because it’s a damn good record.

Out in the Storm – Waxahatchee – I loved Waxahatachee’s first album American Weekend (it topped this list a few years back), but the next two left me bored. So I am very happy to report Katie Crutchfield is back with almost the perfect companion piece to that first record. Except this time instead of haunted lullabyes we’re treated to a full-on sonic assault of guitars, bass and drum. This is her rock album. A wall of pop melodies coated in noise syrup brilliant from start to finish. Love this record.

After the Party – The Menzingers – The closest we’re going to come to The Clash thirty-five years after they split up. I would call this my feel-good record of the year. From the opening guitars of Tellin’ Lies the album made me feel young again, and never let up.   And maybe this is new for old dudes. I don’t give a fuck. I’m an old dude. And this one rocked.

Turn Out the Lights – Julien Baker – She sings one note and my heart is broken. A whole album, and I’m reduced to tears. She is the heir apparent to Nick Drake or Elliott Smith, someone to take us into the dark spaces, and hold our hands with the confidence in her voice. Everything will be okay with Julien leading the way.

Gilded – Jade Jackson – While we all wait for new records from Loveless and Shook, dig into Jade Jackson spectacular debut. It’s a collection of heartbreak and longing with guitars a little too crunchy for country-western. The raspy catch in her voice will grab you from the first note and not let go.

Notes of Blue – Son Volt – The best alt-country record of the year. And in a year in which guitars seemed to blessedly rule again, this is a freaking guitar masterpiece.

Losing – Bully – Old school riot grrl done right: fuzz, melody, fuzz, drums, fuzz and Alicia Bognanno has a voice made for the genre. Just one of those records you put on endless repeat on a drive from Minneapolis to Fargo.

Spades and Roses – Caroline Spence – Best straight out country record of the year. Spence is an amazing songwriter, but it’s her delivery that just breaks your heart. With production just sparse enough, and yet more killer guitar riffs, she takes us through a collection of songs that sound like great southern literature. Short stories turned to song.

BEST SONG OF THE YEAR: Lydia Loveless take this for both sides of a single: Desire/Sorry. The A-side, a gut-wrenching tale of an affair with a married man gone bad, was truly my favorite track from her last LP Real, but it ended up on the recording studio floor, so to speak, though it was a centerpiece of my film Who is Lydia Loveless? The B-side is a cover of the Justin Beiber song which was easily my most played tune of the year. Lydia makes the song her own, as if every word meant something special to her and the person and/or persons she singing it to. Gave me goosebumps more times than I care to admit. I’ve said it before that she has the greatest voice on the planet. And I’ll say it again. She fucking kills me every time.

Listen to Sorry on bandcamp here.


Sixteen from Diet Cig – the opening verse is all you need to know: “When I was sixteen/I dated a boy/With my own name/It was weird/In the back of his truck/Moaning my name/While trying to fuck.”

(I Just Died) Like an Aviator – Matthew Ryan – the greatest song in the world can become downright annoying when you direct and edit a music video for it. There’s only so much you can hear one song. Right? Well, wrong, in this case. Despite hundreds and hundreds of listens over a two week period, the first track from Ryan’s stellar Hustle up Starlings lp stands the test of time as one of the best rock tracks of the year. (Even if I no longer picture the words coming out of Ryan’s mouth.)

BEST LIVE SHOW: Lydia Loveless, Todd May, and Casey Magic at the backroom at Cat’s Cradle on December 15th and 16th. She was on fire these two nights, playing solo and with Todd, rearranging, ranting, reinventing European, breaking our fucking hearts every time she opened her mouth. Goddammit, Lydia!

BEST HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE FILM: I, Tonya – a mocumentary, that was funny at times, heartbreaking the rest. A brilliant cast, superb script, and a sharpness of vision we rarely see with any sort of budget.

BEST INDEPENDENT NARRATIVE FILM: Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig might be the Lydia Loveless of independent film: funny, awkward, damaged, opinionated, and always completely charming. And that showed through in every frame of this magnificent directing debut.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography – Errol Morris’s short, subtle masterpiece. A film that leaves you wanting more, which is rare indeed today. His portrait of a quirky photographer who was one of five people on the planet who owned a 20×24 Polaroid camera. Love, love, love!

BEST TV: TV is the new indie film. And it just keeps getting better and better. Thus just a list of a few of this year’s standouts: Stranger Things II, The Five, Master of None, Ray Donovan, The Keepers, Big Little Lies, The Deuce, and GLOW. (And I’m not even mentioning my guilty pleasure love for reality TV like Big Brother, Survivor, and Top Chef.)

BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Mary Miller’s brilliant Always Happy Hour: Stories and Jeff Goodell’s terrifying The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. The former is a collection of writing to rival the dark despair of Carver, the latter a look at how the coastlines of the world will not be recognizable in a few decades. Both so worth reading, perhaps for the same reason.

As for the rest of my 2017:

Four releases this fall, of which I am quite proud: Who is Lydia Loveless? on DVD with a shitload of great extras, the Record Store Day vinyl-only release of 6 tunes from the film, Live from the Documentary Who is Lydia Loveless?, my first film Disconnected on bluray (with extras that include my long-lost first documentary Twenty Questions), and Psychos In Love on bluray. (The last two both brought to you from the amazingly twisted folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

As for what’s next: five documentaries in various stages of production:

What it Takes: film en douze tableaux – a quirky portrait of Sarah Shook and the Disarmers as they record their new album Years for Bloodshot Record. You can expect to see this at film festivals in late Spring.

Seniors – A documentary that celebrates the brains, energy & sass of some of the coolest senior dogs on this planet and the people who love them. It’s mostly filmed. Editing now.

Pizza, A Love Story – in the works for ten years and being edited now, we hope to finally have our epic love poem to the Holy Trinity of pizza (Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern) completed by mid-year.

Normal Valid Lives – our look at a horrible case of bullying in a school district north of Minneapolis. We still have a little filming to do, and hope to have this completed for film festivals in early 2019.

Where are you, Jay Bennett? – A feature-length documentary on Jay Bennett, a legendary musician, who as a member of Wilco, was a large part of the genius behind three seminal albums, who went on to a critically acclaimed solo career, before dying tragically at the age of 45. Filming and editing now.

And of course, NHdocs 2018 is coming your way on May 31st for 11 days of great films. (might have a surprise or two from me in there!)

That’s it.  Another year in the books. Be well, hug your dog, eat good pizza, drink hot coffee, and be kind to everyone you meet.



REAL by Lydia Loveless

I’ve been listening to the ten songs on REAL since June of 2015 when I had the amazing opportunity to film Lydia and her band of musical geniuses for my documentary Who Is Lydia Loveless? To say I’ve heard these songs incessantly over the past 14 months, especially during the six month editing process, is an understatement. So, when the film was done, once the accompanying music videos finished, one would expect me to never want to hear this record again. I mean, there are very few albums in existence that could bear that sort of repeated listens. And yet, now that the editing is complete, what album have I been reaching for over and over again? REAL, from Lydia Loveless.


Few things are timeless, fewer albums certainly. But every once in a while, a collection comes along that touches you in ways you can’t quite comprehend. That brings emotions to the surface that you felt were long ago repressed. That makes you remember love, heartache, lust, longing. What it’s like to cry into your beer for the one who got away. What it’s like to question your own sanity when they’re lying in bed beside you. Mistakes of the heart, we’ve all been there. Those are the songs of REAL.

“If self-control is what you want, I’ll have to break all of my fingers off,” she sings in MORE THAN EVER, a song which finds a mistress pounding harder on the door. “Well you don’t have to tell me everything I want to hear/It only makes it harder for me everytime my dear/To say bye,” she sings in the stark and heartbreaking CLUMPS. “You take a walk/I’d rather be lonely than ashamed,” from the decidedly dark BILBAO where a chorus of “marry me” turns into “bury me.” Or “I don’t know what the truth is but you give me every reason to fall out of every lasting arms” in OUT ON LOVE, arguable the most breath-taking song on the album. Lyrically, there’s not a better songwriter on the planet today. The emotions aren’t bubblegum nonsense, you can pick the scabs off the still-healing wounds of a heart stabbed too many times.

But what might be most amazing about REAL is the sonic variety given the tracks. Props to producer Joe Viers and the band. There are no two songs that sound alike. This is not your average pop record where you think you keep hearing the same slow and fast songs over and over again. Put HEAVEN side-by-side with BILBAO, or put that side-by-side with SAME TO YOU. You’ll know it’s the same heart stopping voice, but think the songs are from different era, different decades. Most musicians today are afraid to offer variety. But Lydia once again proves she’s afraid of nothing, at least not in the studio. She takes risks, and they all soar.

Lydia Loveless, Todd May, Ben Lamb, Jay Gasper, and George Hondroulis are the rarest of beasts, a rock band true to the core. One without compromise. I love this band. And I love this record.

The Tale of the Broken Neck

I spent a good portion of the past three weeks shooting WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS?, which will be either my 13th or 14th completed feature film (depending on whether this or PIZZA, A LOVE STORY is completed first), and while I could share stories about the candid and amazing interviews with Lydia and her bandmates, or what a thrill it was to watch them record their new record, how freakin’ funny they all are, or even just how damn nice everyone is, I will instead share this.

The tale of the broken neck.

My crew arrived in Lydia’s hometown on Columbus on Sunday, June 14th, just in time to see Lydia and company perform at a free show.  But because of the ridiculous lack of cover on the stage, and the fact that is rained virtually every day I was in Ohio (and apparently always does in June), the show was a disaster waiting to happen.  Gear got wet, sound issues abounded because electronics don’t like getting wet, basically it was a cluster fuck on the part of the promoter.

When everything was finally working, and there was a break in the rain, an extremely frustrated Lydia and company managed to pull off their song “Wine Lips” (sweetly dedicated to a young fan), and a small part of another song before the clouds let loose with a torrential downpour.  Ben moved fastest, getting his upright bass under a tarp.  But as one of the dozens seemingly “in charge” of the event ran onto the stage and cancelled the concert, Lydia, completely frustrated by the events, threw her beloved Telecaster to the ground in anger.

For me, a lover of chaos in rock and roll it was a beautiful way to begin the trip.  My 5th Lydia show, only a song and a half long.  And as me and my crew walked back to the rental Jeep in the pouring rain, I couldn’t wait for the interviews to begin.

And this story might have ended there…

Until the next morning when I get to Lydia’s and Ben’s home, and checking out her office where the first of many interviews would be filmed, I picked up the Tele, making some stupid comment to Lydia about how indestructible they are.  And then it became obvious.  I noticed.  She noticed.  Fuck!  The neck of her favorite guitar was cracked.  Not a small repairable crack.  But cracked through and through on the headstock.

Now in my life I have certainly put my foot in my mouth many times.  But I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about calling attention to anything.  Here we are about to begin the interviews, while I can see how truly upset she is about her guitar.  I felt terrible, even though I played no part in breaking it.

In the end of course, the guitar was quickly fitted with a gorgeous new neck.  The interviews were everything I wanted them to be and more.  I learned for the 1,843rd time this year to think before I speak.  And Lydia posted this on her Facebook page with a picture of the new neck: “New neck for my main squeeze. My guitar tossing days are over ‪#‎trymeditationforanger‬ ‪#‎onepunchloveless‬ ‪#‎whoamikidding‬

I even got to take home a little souvenir.

I don’t really collect much memorabilia anymore.  I have a few items from my favorites bands (y’know, The Mats, Archers, Wilco), but none of them have the meaning of this broken neck.

It sits now at the entrance to my office, the first thing I see every time I enter.

And it truly does represent the most rock and roll way imaginable to begin this film.

Broken Guitar Neck-small


Lydia Loveless rocks her own documentary from COLOR ME OBSESSED director Gorman Bechard


COLUMBUS, OH & NEW HAVEN, CT: Filmmaker Gorman Bechard, who has chronicled three of the most influential bands in the history of rock and roll with documentaries about The Replacements, Archers of Loaf, and Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart is turning his camera towards the future with his next film, WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS?

KickStarter Main Image-3-HR

The feature-length documentary will follow Lydia Loveless and her band into the studio as they lay down tracks for their forthcoming record. Along with live performances shot specifically for the film and extensive interviews with Loveless and her band it will visit places integral to her musical development, delve into the realities of a working musician on the brink of major success, and answer the question: Who Is Lydia Loveless?

“Lydia is the future of rock and roll,” director Bechard explains. “She straps you onto an emotional roller coaster of love, lust, drunken mistakes, a little stalking, a lot of heartbreak, and you’re left breathless, stunned, happy to have taken the ride.”

Music journalists from SPIN to Rolling Stone have likewise raved, with her last album SOMEWHERE ELSE finding its way onto many of 2014’s Best Album lists.

“I’m excited to work with Gorman,” says Loveless. “He’s very passionate about music and about the true meaning and spirit of rock and roll.”

Bechard’s three previous music docs have all won critical praise. Rolling Stone called COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS one of “The Seven Best New Music Documentaries of the Year.” The Seattle Times raved about the “raw power and mesmerizing hooks” in his Archers of Loaf concert film WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? While EVERY EVERYTHING: THE MUSIC, LIFE & TIMES OF GRANT HART was labeled “beautifully sad” by The Village Voice.

“We have an AMAZING collection of rewards,” the director explains, “including a Lydia Loveless performance at your house for you and your friends.  If I weren’t running this KickStarter I would so be backing the project at that level.  Thankfully the reward includes a screening of the film, so I’ll get to be there.”

WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS? will be funded via a KickStarter campaign that runs through March 18th. The KickStarter campaign can be found HERE.

Filming is slated for spring and summer 2015, with a premiere planned for 2016.

For more information please visit:




Who is Lydia Loveless?

Today a musician friend asked me, “Who is Lydia Loveless? Is it a singer or is it a band?”

If he had asked that question back in July, right after I had seen her as an opening act. playing a big dreadnaught guitar, with Benjamin Lamb on mostly acoustic bass, I would have answered simply, and honestly, “Lydia Loveless is the greatest singer on the face of the planet.”

And yes, I do believe that down to the core of my being. She could sing the list of ingredients from a bottle of Newman’s Own Lite Caesar dressing and break your heart. Every note is a novel of emotion, vulnerability, power, and ultimately confidence. Every note is David slaying Goliath. She straps you onto an emotional roller coaster of love, lust, drunken mistakes, a little stalking, a lot of heartbreak, and you’re left breathless, stunned, happy to have taken the ride. Wishing it would begin again, right freaking now.

But after seeing Ms. Loveless play live with a full band twice this weekend, first at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, and then at the Studio at Webster Hall in New York City, my answer could just as well be, “Lydia Loveless is the best fucking rock band on the planet.”

And I don’t mean the typical singer/songwriter with guitar backed by a bunch of great studio musicians making every note sound like the record. I mean a fucking band. Every member sweating in sync with the other, creating a chaotic Irish car bomb of beautiful noise. Each player an integral wire without whom the entire conceit might simply never detonate.

Sure, that voice is still there. But now the acoustic has been replaced by an old G&L electric with P90 pickups that growl like a feral dog. Or a Fender Tele that looks a little frightened every time she straps it on. Now she gets lost in the songs in a complete different way, her hair whipping into her face, her eyes fluttering strobe-like, she’s possessed, a punk rock shaman. And when she holds onto a note now, you feel the gut punch. You can see your own soul leaving your body. On the song “Mile High” she asks, “Can I have one taste of every breath that you take?” But in the breakneck live version, she doesn’t ask nicely. She literally takes your breath away, and leaves you gasping at the end, you chest heaving from the heartbreak that please no, the song can’t be over.

There is something about that song which kills me. Released as a Record Store Day 45 this past April, it’s become to me the song of the summer, the song of the year. Honestly the song of the half-over decade.   And live there’s an unexpected urgency. An anger not on the single. When she sings the best line from any song in years, “And my heart’s breaking faster than my will not to call you,” at the start of the second verse, it’s ramped up now, piercing, her anger turned inward. The sexy playfulness of the first verse also takes on different meaning. She’s pulled the rug out on our very belief system that we might have known what the song was about. When it was over I wanted her to play it again. Then again after that, as I do so often in my Jeep. I want her playing it right now in my kitchen as I write this. Like a piece of art, you pull back a layer every time you hear it thinking there can’t be more. This is it. But like any great piece of art, there’s always more. The artist smirking, daring you to read the fine print on their soul.

Her stage banter also felt different when she was wielding an electric guitar. Self-deprecating, sarcastic, funny-flirty. It’s her party, though she might be having second thoughts as to having sent out so many invites. And the middle-finger salute she gave to the hipster boys with their cellphone cameras held high during the New York City show certainly made this old man smile.

Lydia Loveless at the Studio at Webster Hall.  Photo by Brendan Welsh-Balliett
Lydia Loveless at the Studio at Webster Hall. Photo by Brendan Welsh-Balliett

But as I’ve said, in this incarnation, Ms. Loveless is a pack leader. This is a real band. I cannot stress that enough. This is The Replacements with Bob Stinson on that stage. And you know I don’t use that comparison lightly. But I think even Mr. Stinson would be pleased with Todd May playing his the part.

Mr. May is a category 5 hurricane on stage, wrestling an over-driven noise from a beat-up G&L with a neck so black Springsteen’s old “Born to Run” Tele would be jealous. He’s the living breathing example of playing all the wrong notes so beautifully at the right time. He’s Quasimodo, hunched over in his little corner of the stage, stomping and suddenly glaring, his eyes going wide as if he had sold his soul to the devil, and now was the time to pay up. He’ll lean over his old Fender Bassman amp, stealing from it whispers of distortion to feed to his leads, his fills. Teasing, taunting every note with it like a piece of meat to a junkyard dog.

On the opposite side of the stage is Jay Gasper on pedal steel and 12-string. But he ain’t your granddad’s pedal steel player. He’s Freddy Kreuger. He’ll lure you into submission with the lilting open of “Somewhere Else” and then shatter your perception of what that instrument is supposed to be. When he picks up his Danelectro 12-string things really get strange. No one is supposed to get those sort of sounds from a 12-string. I think they’re illegal in many states. The prettiness has been tattooed and pierced, the fishnet stockings ripped.

Watch Mr. Gasper play and you understand the joy behind every note this band plays. He is truly having an out-of-body experience on stage. Sometimes making comments that will crack Ms. Loveless up. Sometimes just talking to no one. But always grinning from ear-to ear. It’s a beautiful thing.

Behind the drum kit is George Hondroulis. And though drummers rarely get any credit unless they’re Neil Peart, or someone of that ilk, let me state for the record a simple fact, there are no great rock & roll bands without great drummers behind them. Chris Mars was a great drummer. Mark Price is an amazing drummer. Tommy Ramone, you try keeping that beat. That’s the group I put Mr. Hondroulis in. He’s the engine which drives this gloriously dented Dodge Charger with 470 HP under the hood.

And then there’s Benjamin Lamb, who probably looks as if he’d be a better fit in Metallica, playing a stand-up bass, the only thing on the stage taller than he is. But though he might look heavy-metal, the playing reminds me most of Bruce Thomas of Elvis Costello’s band The Attractions. Who was always in my opinion the greatest bass player of all time. Mr. Lamb does more than just add a bottom note to the band’s sound. He brings to the table a alternate melody. He’s playing a lead bass of sort, never getting in the way of the vocals or guitars, but adding yet another layer.

Take for example “Boy Crazy,” which the band closed their raucous tour-ending set with Sunday night. Mr. Lamb puts down the stand-up bass, straps on a fretless electric, and takes position at the lip of the stage. As the ending of the previous song “Crazy” subsides, he rips into this song’s bass line, and suddenly it’s 1977 all over again. The members of the band flailing and wailing, seemingly unaware of each other, yet so perfectly in snyc.  And by the end Ms. Loveless is on her knees swigging beer, battering her guitar. Then, as Mr. Lamb uses the overhead pipes connected to the ceiling as a bow against the strings of his bass, Ms. Loveless leans over her Blues Junior amp, now twisting the controls as if lost in the middle of the ocean and trying desperately to get a signal. Her Tele now just a casualty, lying at her feet, as she stomps on its strings with the heel of her boot. No wonder it looked frightened.

They’re a band. They’re a band. They’re a fucking great band.

(This is a YouTube video by Joe Castrianni of the “Boy Crazy” performance of which I speak.  It will give you an idea of the glorious mayhem at the end of the song.)

And of course this takes nothing away from Ms. Loveless. Did Stinson, Stinson and Mars take anything away from Paul Westerberg? We know the answer to that question all too well.

On stage she is the center of the storm, stomping her left foot backward, an angry tick in time to whichever song. Or pulling her take on Costello’s classic “My Aim Is True” pose, twitching to the music, vibrating with an energy I haven’t seen since Joe Strummer. She’s a guitar string about to snap. (She’s playing hard enough that she broke a string two songs in on Saturday night, and towards the end of her set on Sunday.)

Even when she slows it down, as she did both nights on the haunting new composition “Out On Love,” which brought her to tears in Northampton, there’s a raw poignancy. It’s not a ballad, it’s a slow rocker. She fingerpicks that Tele laced with distortion, as her voice cuts through leaving the crowd stunned and speachless. On Sunday she also played a another new tune, “Real.” Both haunt me now. I want to hear them again. I want to know every word. I want to know how they’ll sound on the next record.

Regarding sets, the Saturday show was shorter due to the venue’s time constraints. The band rocked through most of her new record “Somewhere Else,” changing every song up just enough, adding even more of a whallop. As if the songs themselves had grown up and weren’t afraid to challenge the audience. She ended the set with “Steve Earle” from her “Indestructible Machine” album, the song now slow and bluesy. The words, about a stalker of sorts who looks like Steve Earle, not as light-hearted as on the record. The tone making them menacing now. While she used to be amused, now she’s most certainly disgusted.

In New York they mixed it up more, playing ninety minutes plus. And as charged up as they were on Saturday, this set, the last of their current tour, seemed to explode. “Really Wanna See You Again,” especially had such a punk rock force, from Ms. Loveless counting up out loud right before the vocals kick in, to her spitting out “I really wanna kiss you again right on the mouth and tell you all the things I should have told you then,” with such a vengeance that you were left wondering if it weren’t as much a threat as a letter of desire.

Lydia Loveless at the Studio at Webster Hall. Photo by Brendan Welsh-Balliett
One of the greatest aspects of rock & roll is not knowing what comes next. And even seeing them back-to-back on consecutive nights I was still surprised on Sunday. The set completely changed up. No rehearsed banter. (I always detest when I see a band a few times and the stage banter from one show to the next is identical. That ain’t rock & roll, that borders on Broadway musical.) No rehearsed moves. The energy they themselves create is what drives Ms. Loveless and company. The spontaneity of the moment seems to be the constant deciding factor as to how a line will be sung, a chord will be strummed, what lick will be played where on the neck. She is a vision to watch as the chaos explodes around her like a nighttime air raid on some war torn city. She’s telling the story, the story behind each song, in the moment with stunning urgency. If she doesn’t make it through the night, at least she will have been heard.

And if I were to compare these two shows to the acoustic performance I saw a few months back, I would simply say “Lydia Loveless, in any incarnation, is the closest thing rock & roll has to a future right now.”  Which I guess is the true answer to my friend’s question.

She deserves the keys to the kingdom. Give them to her now, or better yet, let her and the band storm the castle and take them. I’ll gladly sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

That’s what rock & roll is all about.

Lydia, oh, Lydia, oh, have you heard Lydia…

Everyone who reads this blog has to realize I’m a huge music fan. It’s one of the driving forces in my life. I’ve often said, I don’t believe in god, but I believe in The Replacements. Well, the same can be said of Archers of Loaf, or Patti Smith, or Wilco, or Lucinda Williams, or the Clash, Ida Maria, Neko Case, or even early Rod Stewart, and early Elvis Costello. The music released by these artists are my personal bibles, holy passages that somehow make me understand, and help me survive, and make it all worthwhile. I find solice, I find energy, I find life in these songs.

But why these bands? Sure, there’s something about the song writing. The play on words, the chord progressions, the blessed distortion on the guitars, the wrong notes at the right times. But the one thing all of the above have in common, the singer has a voice unlike any other.

I always compare every voice to Billie Holiday’s. And I think of hers as a fine piece of china. A cup, wise and fragile, with hairline cracks blanketing the surface, making you wonder if the glass will shatter if you touch it the wrong way. But its stronger than anyone can imagine, wise beyond its years. Its survived personal wars and heartbreak, 18-year-old Scotch and the cheapest ripple, piss and vinegar. It might not be the prettiest piece of glass on the shelf, but it’s the one you turn to time and again because its drenched with emotion, and every sip from it makes you feel.

That’s Paul Westerberg’s to me. Or Eric Bachman’s. Patti’s. Lucinda’s. Joe Strummer’s. Jeff Tweedy’s. They are all beautifully damaged pieces of china on my musical shelf. But while one can growl, and one can go blissfully out of tune, and another can go from a whisper to a scream, and another can fill a room with a note so perfectly balanced that Philippe Petit listens in awe, I’m not sure any combine all of the attributes like the young woman I am adding to my list.

I came to Lydia Loveless a little late in the game. I missed her first two albums, the EP, and even purchased her latest, the transcendent “Somewhere Else” a few months after its release on the suggestion of my friend Agatha Donkar. (On the day of its release I was flying to Missoula, Montana for a film festival. New Release Tuesday was not on my radar that week.)

I was immediately addicted. No, I want to go even farther than that. I became a crack whore for anything and everything Lydia Loveless. I bought every album, ordered the two blissful Record Store Day singles on ebay, then repurchased both the new album, and her previous “Indestructible Machine” on vinyl. And as my wonderfully patient wife Kristine will attest, I have played no other music since. No other new releases have even piqued my interest. In fact, all other new music seems to annoy me because, well, it’s not Lydia.

Now normally I get bored very quickly with music. It takes a lot for me to continue playing a new record for more than a week or so. Those albums that get long-term play are few and far between. Something on the record has to sink its claws into me. I want to hear something new every time I listen to a song. Decades later, ten thousand plays later, I still want to hear something new. That is the mark of great art. That is the mark of a masterpiece. And that is everything that Lydia Loveless sings.

Hers is a voice that can soar, that can break, that can swagger and scream, that can whisper and seduce, that can smirk and laugh out loud. She is the china cup from which Billie Holiday would want to drink.

The only thing left was for me to see her perform live.

Last night, in a small venue in Fairfield, Connecticut, Lydia opened for someone whom we did not even stay to see. She was accompanied only by her husband Ben Lamb on a standup bass. It was a seven song set. Thirty minutes. Pretty much what I expected, as she was the warm up. And honestly, I would have been there even if she were playing only one song.

Her voice has such confidence on record, I wondered how it would translate live. But from the first strum of her guitar, it was like we were in the hands of a southern punk rock preacher, who would cure us of the disease which has so sickened rock and roll. And once she opened her mouth, the demons were exorcised, and like a smirking pied piper she would sing to us everything we needed to hear, all the while taking us to the promised land we envisioned the first time we ever heard Westerberg and company.

Each of her songs took on new life, as if perhaps on this night she were singing for the friend she mentioned at the end of the set who had recently passed. Singing every line as if it were for the first time, as if she too were always finding new meaning in her words. New wonder. And when she pulled way back from the mic during “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” and sang “I just wanna be the one you love,” I doubt anyone in that room would have denied her that request.

The highlight for me, if I could pick one, would have been “Crazy,” which I not only rank as one of the best five or so songs of this half-over decade, but as a song that rivals Patsy Cline’s classic of the same name. It kills me. And I’m not even sure I can put into words why. Perhaps it’s just that feeling when something touches us so completely and we can’t explain why, and the inability to explain makes us feel crazy. Sort of the way I feel about Lydia’s voice, I guess.

And to even call it a highlight sells short the unreleased song she closed the show with, a song dedicated to her friend who’d passed, and called “High Life.” She sang it alone. It was sad, it was beautiful, it made me smile. And I couldn’t help but think that wherever her friend is now, he quickly became the envy of those around him. Perhaps even god, listening for those few minutes thinking that damn when he got it right, he really got it right.

And no, nothing’s changed in that respect. I still don’t believe in god. But after last night I certainly, wholehearted, believe in Lydia Loveless.