Sometimes simple is best. But every once in a while, you crave something with a little spice or some frills. I’m stuck with that craving after repeated listenings to Missy Werner’s latest project, Three Kinds of Lonesome.
It’s a solid effort from the opening banjo of the first track, I’d Rather Love a Memory, to the fadeout of Journey to My Savior’s Side 13 songs later. Each song showcases the strongest selling point of The Missy Werner Band – Missy’s voice.
If you haven’t heard of her, you will. Missy has one of those comfortable voices that wrap around you like a favorite old sweatshirt. Nothing fancy or elegant, but full of honest, homespun emotion. Think Lynn Morris and you’ll have a pretty good idea of where she’s coming from.
The strongest efforts here – Three Little Words, Just the Same – a fine duet with Chris Jones – and the previously mentioned opening number all benefit from spare arrangements and great straightforward writing. There’s also a nice duet with Frank Solivan on Endlessly.
As a songwriter, I make it a habit to listen to songs at least once before I look at the credits, trying not to let relationships or previously formed opinions about writers influence my take on the music. So when I finally peeked, I was pleased to find Three Little Words – the best song in this bunch – is from the pen of one of my favorite writers, Mark Brinkman. The chorus is actually a series of “three little words” that lift this one to three minutes and 16 seconds of elegant simplicity.
I’d Rather Love a Memory is in the same vein. Great song. Spare arrangement. This one was written by Jennifer Strickland and Jon Weisberger, who are both all over this project. Jon produced it and co-wrote a handful of the songs and Jennifer added beautiful high harmonies on this song and a number of others.
But I kept waiting for Missy to move outside of her comfort zone and for the band to kick it up a notch. Alas, there are too few of those moments here – one when Missy tackles the bluesy title track and another when ace banjo man Ned Luberecki makes a guest appearance to race through If I Fall.
Aside from those moments and the terrific songs I mentioned, there are a handful of mid-tempo and slower songs that have a similar feel. They’re not bad, mind you. Just too much of the same thing. After a steady diet of comfort food, sometimes you just need some fire.
Still, overall, Three Kinds of Lonesome is a very good album that will help win Missy Werner a broader following outside of Ohio and Kentucky. It’s easy to envision the Chris Jones duet getting support for recorded event of the year on IBMA ballots next year, and you’ll hear some of these songs on the radio a lot in the coming months.