Mary Lou Lord: Got No Shadow (1998)

As written about previously, I have a slight preference for Mary Lou Lord's follow-up, Baby Blue; but her 1998 full-length debut (after a limited release cassette and a few EPs) remains a personal favorite, something I continue to spin with some frequency.

Shadow came at the tail-end of the initial alternative rock era, when a one-time subway busker could find herself with a well-produced major label release and a stint on the Lilith Fair. And while she didn't blow up as big as would have made sense, and has released music only infrequently since, the album holds up as a charming intersection of intimate folk-tinged singer-songwriter music and full-on indie rock.

On the rocking side you've got the blast-force "Some Jingle Jangle Morning," a Byrds riff driven through a cranked-up amp and some heroin-laced lyrics supposed drawn from her relationship with Kurt Cobain; it's insanely catchy, a song that in a just universe would have catapulted Lord to the festival main stage.  It's one of several originals on the album, with the balance of songs (as on the follow-up) coming from Nick Salomon, whose straightforward folk-pop tunes here seem to bear little relationship to the edgy lo-fi retro-psychedelia of his own work as the Bevis Frond.

Opening track "His Lamest Flame" is a winning little break-up jaunt, a twist on the similarly-titled Elvis Presley tune; "She Had You" rocks a similar lyrical vein, adding some slow-moving Pixies-styled loud-quiet-loud dynamics and Crazy Horse guitars; and Salomon's "Lights Are Changing" is glittering, jangly power pop, another perfect single.  Lord's fragile vocals, at times double-tracked, provide a tender vulnerability to songs like the folk standard "Shake Sugaree" and the sweet mid-tempo "Western Union Desperate" and "Seven Sisters."

If you missed this one the first time around, it's never too late to check out one of the key forerunners to the current onslaught of dynamic, independent-minded women musicians that seem to be dominating my playlists these days.

Here's a performance of "Lights Are Changing" (on Conan, I think):
...and a performance of "Jingle Jangle Morning":
...and "Lamest Flame," from the same performance: