CD Review: Robyn Ludwick, Out Of These Blues
Robyn Ludwick puts real soul into alt-country, Texas style, in her new CD, Out Of These Blues. Ms. Ludwick’s songwriting and vocal skills are extraordinary throughout the album. Gurf Morlix produced and played on the record along with an impressive cast including Ian MacLagan, John Ludwick (Ms. Ludwick’s husband), Eddie Cantu, Gene Elders, Trish Murphy, and Slaid Cleaves. The end product is one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2011.
The first track, Hollywood, a song about a girl that’s gone (“she left me for Hollywood . . . that look in her eye, she don’t know nothing ’bout love . . . she’s gone for good”) will remind Shelby Lynne fans of her I Am CD. Like I Am, this is an album you can put on and open a bottle of wine while hanging out with your significant other, even if he/she denies liking country music. Like Hollywood, several of the tracks on the album have a bluesy feel that challenge genre. For example, Steady, a sexy tune of seduction (“lay back and let me take you, take you like a man”) is heavy with organ, producing a sound that underscores this point.
Genre is not all that is defied on this album. Like John Prine singing, “I am an old woman . . .” in Angel From Montgomery, Ms. Ludwick lets her songs tell their stories without respect to gender. Several songs on These Blues are written from a male perspective or at least describe a female love interest. In an email exchange, I asked Ms. Ludwick to tell me about how that came to be. This is what she had to say:
Not all the songs on Out Of These Blues are smoky lounge songs. Several are smoky barroom songs. For example, Can’t Go Back is a Hayes Carll-ish country tune that directly addresses Ms. Ludwick’s musical family. Ms. Ludwick’s got music all around her – her brothers are Charlie and Bruce Robison. Her sister-in-law, of course, is Kelly Willis. Here are a few lines from Can’t Go Back:
My brothers and my sister, when we were just kids
We didn’t need nothing but each other to live
But we sold our souls to the music biz
And you can’t go back no more
My take is that Robyn Ludwick and the rest of the clan haven’t sold their souls to anyone, and thank goodness for that. Out Of These Blues is a fine example, showcasing Ms. Ludwick as a Texas Diva and a force to be reckoned with. And she can’t go back no more.