A new era of sparkle-country is upon us, and Lola Kirke is here to usher it in in a glittery blaze of pedal steel and synth. With a shiny new label (Jack White’s Third Man Records) and an even shinier new sound, Kirke’s sophomore album Lady for Sale is all metallic-coated twang. An homage to the 1980s and 1990s genre queens like Reba, Martina, Trisha, and The Judds, Lady for Sale shows off Kirke’s vocal prowess and her ability to carve out a fresh corner for herself. Eschewing the simpler singer-songwriter approach of her 2018 debut Heart Head West, this style suits Kirke, giving her the freedom to stretch not just sonically, but aesthetically.
Lady for Sale specializes in power dance ballads built for crying under a disco ball while wearing cowboy boots. The melancholy “Pink Sky” and tearjerker “Broken Families,” the latter featuring an assist from Courtney Marie Andrews, are prime examples. Kirke wears country music almost like a bedazzled costume in these go-for-broke vocal performances, sometimes breathy and spoken, and others big and belted. Cuts like “Better Than Any Drug,” “Fall in Love Again” and “Stay Drunk” go even heavier on the fringe and sequins with Kirke’s woozy rasp leaving it all on the beer-soaked floor.
Beyond all the shimmer and groove, though, the songs on Lady for Sale have so much heart. They’re about self-love and finding your worth, dusting yourself off when you’ve been knocked down and landing on your feet when you try again. It’s this starry-eyed optimism and hunger for a good time that makes what Kirke is doing so exciting. Most of all, Kirke is hopeful, and the emotion in her voice convinces listeners to feel the same.