We only have one shot in this world. We bite the bullet just to get by, hoping to do much more than simply survive. We need to be able to live. Shackled by toxic relationships, romantic and platonic, our human form crumbles underneath the weight of maintaining our individuality and vibrancy, while also supporting those we love the most. Some equip you with the gutsiness to look fear in the face, striking down delusions and haunting misgivings; but others will rip you apart, if you let them. Letting go, for better or worse, is often your only choice: sanity and personal growth is at stake. It’s brutal but unavoidable. Lilly Hiatt knows that feeling on a deeply-troubling, visceral, bone-deep level. In the aftermath of a breakup, she sought out her own demons, slaying them for the final time and hiding away from the world and it’s savagery ⎯⎯ to not only clean up the bloody, broken shards but to unearth who she was to become.
It wasn’t another person who pulled her back from the edge, either. “Of all the things you can count on in life, music has saved my soul, and I think it’s saved a lot of people’s souls. Not to be morose about it, but if it weren’t for that, I don’t think I’d be here,” she said. Hence, Trinity Lane, her third studio album and first for New West Records, was born and bred out of that misery. “Going to hang on a little bit longer, sleep well, work a little harder, put my faith in something I can’t see,” she records on the title track, in which she considers how boredom (coupled with heartache) lends itself dexterously to various vices (like drinking). “Well, you’re right down the road from here / I wanna come and see you, but it really doesn’t matter,” she later sketches, depicting the very real Trinity Lane spanning East Nashville, which became her land of solace and self-discovery. “It’s working alright for me…,” she surmises.
“The Night David Bowie Died” plays as not only a tribute to the late, great pop icon but as a vessel for Hiatt to explore cognizance of her own wrongdoing. “I’m sorry I was such a bitch that night in the city / Baby, I want you back,” she warbles over the two-toned guitar licks rising rapidly to meet her tears. “I realize what I screwed up.” Later, “Everything I Had,” rumbling with a fragile waltz tip-tap, sees her assert her own self-worth ⎯⎯ “I’m the one getting angry, so the night’s on my back,” she reports, “but you’re saying nothing at all, so cut me some slack.” She slithers out of her own misplaced guilt, venom spewing from her tongue and redressing the blame where it belongs. “I Wanna Go Home” is a study of “crooks and kings,” while “Imposter,” a smokey, gritty western, serves to honor her father and prolific songwriter John Hiatt: “Usually, I’m like, ‘This song can be about anything,’ but on that song I really wanted to tell him thank you, in a way,” she explained.
“Records” then burns slow, connecting the dots between her unseated anguish and the allure and comfort of rock ‘n roll music, which unceremoniously is the core of the album and propelled her to avoid making a traditionally-classic country album. Instead, she trades up soft throwback flourishes for biting rock, crawling between her songwriting tendencies, the nuanced, in-your-face vocal swerves and the unapologetically unruly production motifs. “I’m 32 / I feel 23 / Got no husband next to me / I just want rock ‘n roll, scream out my lungs,” she concedes about life’s tragically unexpected unravelling. “Six years ago, hope was nothing much / Waking up to a stranger’s touch / I gave up vodka / I chilled out on weed / That record still hung on to me,” she untangles, illustrating her own sobriety and those life-altering albums which have rattled her to her soul. “It’s been really good for me, but it’s certainly not been the end of my self-destructive habits,” she admitted, candidly. “It’s still a journey, and there have been uncomfortable moments since then, confrontations with my own demons.”
Trinity Lane exhibits all her scars and open wounds, unmercifully, and darts through every stage of heartbreak: the pangs of isolation and denial (“Trinity Lane”), anger (“Everything I Had” with its Alanis Morissette-like syncopation), negotiating her own well-being (“I Wanna Go Home”), crippling depression (“Different, I Guess”), and acceptance and/or release (“See Ya Later”). Along the way, she needles together the thrill of the music with the intimacy and desolation of songwriting itself (“So Much You Don’t Know” is her most affecting moment on record). Hiatt is nearly always fearless, unashamed of owning her flaws and willing to call out the bullshit when she sees it. Despite how honest she is about her headspace and redemption, there is plenty we, as the listener, won’t even begin to understand. “I was thinking about how complex we are, how complex love is, and how you can never, as much as you empathize, or try to discover,” she said, “you can never be in the mind of somebody else.”
But we can at least be moved by the music in uncovering our own injured hearts.
Grade: 3.5 out of 5
Trinity Lane is out now on iTunes, and you can spin it below, via Spotify: