Some people are allergic to the term “country”–I admit that I used to be one of these people when I started Independent Clauses. But in the decade since, I’ve come to love the crisp, poignant sincerity of a barebones country track. Zachary Lucky’s The Ballad of Losing You is about as perfect a recreation of that old-school, lonesome country sound as you’re going to find. (Although–It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t what country sounded like, and this is merely what we imagined country sounded like, but I digress.)
Yes, Lucky is as country as they come, even as he tries to apply an asterisk: cowboy hat, the word “ballad” in the title, and pedal steel applied liberally. He even lists his Bandcamp bio as “the laureate of the lonesome song.” Yet he stops short of calling it country–maybe because he doesn’t like the term, but maybe because this will appeal to tons more people if they don’t have to feel like they’re listening to country. Lucky’s smooth voice, delicate arrangements, and calm moods were recorded directly to tape (!), which means that this has all sorts of atmosphere and heart in it. Fans of music as disparate as Damien Jurado, Wilco, Once, and Death Cab for Cutie will all find Lucky’s songwriting to be absolutely irresistible.
Each one of these songs are breathtaking in their stark beauty, but “Merry Month of May,” “Ramblin Man’s Lament,” and “After All the Months We’ve Shared” are memorable in their vocal performances. Lucky’s dusky baritone can carry several hatfuls of emotion in its impressive range; Lucky is an experienced hand, and never pushes his voice to where it can’t go. These songs just seem to spill out of him fully formed, as if he doesn’t have to try to make this happen. The performances are so comfortable as to seem effortless; that’s a rare feat.
If you’re into acoustic music of any stripe, Zachary Lucky’s The Ballad of Losing You is an album you need to hear. It’s a calming album, impressive in its impeccable songwriting and spot-on arrangements. You can sit back with a beer and listen to this all the way through with ease. Highly recommended.