Erin Enderlin
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Erin Enderlin ‘I Let Her Talk’ – Album Review

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Already an established Music City songwriter, Erin Enderlin wasn’t content just releasing one album featuring herself as the artist (which had Jamey Johnson co-producing), so this week she released her sophomore record, ‘I Let Her Talk’. The Conway, Arkansas native has written for Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, Terri Clark and Randy Travis (with her version of a few of those songs appearing on this album), yet her own artistry at least matches these. Reminiscent in style of many of country’s strong women who are now in their 40s and 50s, such as Lee Ann Womack, Reba and early Sara Evans, Erin’s vocals are curious in that her tone varies a little across the tracks. However, what’s clear to observe is her full, smooth powerful voice, deeply inflected with country.

This voice is important because it handles sass and determination with ease, a key component of Erin’s songs, and is just able to overpower the full throttle electric guitar, drums, fiddle and dobro that are present on most of the songs (although sometimes it emerges are more of a battle). One example of this is ‘Countryside’, which combines a lead fiddle line with a rock base and a catchy melody, with one feisty character telling a man exactly what she wants (which is to strip him of his city ties and bring him back to the countryside). Similar is the opener ‘Unbroken’, telling an ex-lover where to go, because she doesn’t need his pathetic sympathy, she’s “unbroken”. The lead fiddle is replaced by dobro, and again what has plenty of rock infused comes out as a solidly country song with a huge heaping of twang.

Like some of those she has written for, one of Erin’s biggest artistic qualities is her strong female persona, perfectly exemplified in songs like ‘Finding My Voice’, about leaving someone to get out of that rut and find herself, find her happiness. It’s incessantly cheerful and hopeful, an infectious mandolin line taking the proceedings to sweeten the heavy beaten drums, high in the mix to really build the anticipation. It’s a clever little trick that causes the music to make the listener feel the same way the narrator is feeling, just in its sonic qualities without lyrical input. Yet Erin doesn’t really need it, because all of her lyrics (she of course co-wrote each song on the record) are well-written, emotive and they really resonate. They set up stories and settings really well, for example ‘I Let Her Talk’, which for the full three and a half minutes provides you with an image of the bar the song is situated in. Erin knows how to build stories, a much sought-after skill that is often distinctly lacking on country radio of late.

The title track is also very interesting because it does that rare thing of not quite allowing me to be entirely sure of what it means. Initially you are led to believe Erin’s character is just listening to a sad drunk woman in a bar confiding in her and venting her life, until you realize at the line “baby, I let her talk about you”, that the woman talking to Erin’s character is her husband’s mistress. It’s cleverly put together and very effective. Yet then this idea is flipped on its head in ‘Get That At Home’, about a woman who cheats because she simply doesn’t get the love she needs at home, and her lover is so good to her. Apart from the fact it’s just a lovely sweet country ballad, it calls into question the ethics of affairs and briefly pulls you onto the side of the woman in the song.

Despite her feisty nature, ballads seem to be Erin’s ultimate strength, and there are plenty of varying styles on this album. ‘Good Kinda Pain’ is a country rock power ballad that calls for inspiration from the turn of the millennium, while ‘Monday Morning Church’ (recorded by Alan Jackson) harks back a little further and is rather more traditionally-minded. It draws upon faith metaphors, comparing the emptiness of complete heartbreak and internal discord to Monday morning church, and exploring the loss of faith many experience in these circumstances. Erin’s music brings up real questions and really taps into real emotions and life situations, such as ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ (recorded by Luke Bryan), mixing the well-known phrase with references to Jack Daniels, in a story of a homeless man who lost it all because of whiskey. It makes us question our judgement of people we do not know, something we all could use some work on.

Alcohol also seems to be a theme running through the heartbreak on this album, as it is on ‘Last Call’ (recorded by Lee Ann Womack), lamenting how some things never change, like the narrator’s ex-lover making her his last call after getting drunk at a bar. This version is worth a listen purely for its departure from LAW’s rendition. This one has almost too much dobro (can there ever be too much?), yet it changes the sound completely, making it edgier, more raw and more biting than Lee Ann’s, matching the feelings behind the song. There’s also enough twang solely to keep me happy for at least a year, I’m glad to say, with atmosphere being created by the fiddle.

Erin is a fantastic vocalist, an even better writer, and this is a great album, if a little short at just nine tracks. This is damn good (proper) country music, fun, heartfelt, well produced, and worth a thousand listens.