Lucy Wainwright Roche’s There’s a Last Time for Everything: An Under-the-Radar Gem
When I first met Lucy Wainwright Roche back on January 3, 2008, I believe she was on Winter vacation from her main gig (at the time) as an elementary school teacher. Lucy was in Pittsburgh opening up for her older brother Rufus. Having a teaching background, she and I chatted at the merch table where she was signing her debut EP, 8 Songs; and, although she had just started her music career, I could tell was still a little hesitant about committing to this new direction.
Lucy is from a line of folk music royalty. She has two sets of pretty big shoes to fill (or four sets if we count siblings). The daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche (of The Roches), Lucy’s half-siblings are Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
But music was not her goal out of the gates. She went to Oberlin College and earned a degree in creative writing. After attending graduate school for her MA in General Education, she became an elementary school teacher in NYC.
Since 8 Songs, Lucy has clearly decided to pursue a musical career, having recorded her second EP, 8 More (2008), her first full-length, Lucy (2010) and, in October of 2013, her second LP, There’s a Last Time for Everything. This 2013 release (recorded over just eight days in 2012) is a slow-build of an album that crept up on me and has remained on my playlist since the winter. It still comes off fresh and relevant this spring.
“This Year Will End Again” opens the album and sets a tone of futility, yet urgency. Lucy seems to suggest that, while we might repeat past mistakes, and while our efforts of renewal might seem fruitless, we must continue to try. We must get ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try, try again. Time will not stand still. No matter what gets thrown at us, we need to keep moving.
One of the album’s standout tracks is “Seek and Hide,” which also features Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) on guest vocals. Continuing a theme of the end of the year and changes, “Seek and Hide” sneakily manages to bring in a hint of optimism in what could’ve been a rather bleak song. “I fell in love last year/ It’s not a thing I do a lot.” In other words, through our actions, we can change our path, our course and – whether it works out or not – sometimes we know we’ll still be okay, even if we’re alone.
The album’s title is courtesy of the song “Last Time.” It begins light and full of whimsy, a song of an enduring friendship (platonic or the bond of siblings) with childhood origins. Yet, there’s also a tone of regret or remorse because, as the years progress, the chance to speak things left unspoken dissipates. People grow, elvolve and change altogether. However, the past remains, unchangeable with remembrances of relationships frozen in time.
“Look Busy” is great advice from a friend following a break-up. While the pain post-break-up sometimes seems too great to bear, friends often remind us that this too shall pass. It’s a song that nearly anyone can relate to as we’ve all been the advice-giver to a broken-hearted friend.
One of the most sonically rich tracks is “Canterbury Song.” Like much of the album, it’s nostalgic in nature and draws on formative friendships of the past.
Lucy continues her success with wonderful cover songs, this time with “Call Your Girlfriend.” Though Robyn’s 2011 top charting dance hit is a surprising choice, this selection fits perfectly on the album, full of songs about heartbreak and the ever-changing nature of relationships.
“A Quiet Line” features Mary Chapin Carpenter to great effect. The song appears to speak of summer love, with the promise of a long distance relationship on the horizon. What are the chances that this type of relationship can last? Depends on where you fall on the optimistic/pessimist spectrum.
Lucy does not have the flash or grandiosity of Rufus and, while there is some overlap in lyrical subject matter with Martha, Lucy doesn’t share the brash cynicism that so often infects Martha’s songs. Lucy is a softer, gentler soul. Her quiet arrangements and tender vocals make her seemingly less guarded, more vulnerable. There’s a Last Time for Everything demonstrates Lucy’s continued growth as an artist and, frankly, I’m surprised that more people haven’t noticed her emergence with this powerful release.