Jewly Hight

For artists who make breakup records, a big part of the appeal is having their uninterrupted, unqualified say. It can be a cathartic experience to call out former partners for heartlessness and narcissism, to stake your claims to the high ground and come out looking good. There's a seductiveness to that sort of indignation. Just ask Justin Bieber. But the elements of emotional truth in such approaches are often enmeshed with unreliable narration.

This may seem like an odd thing to say of a band fronted by one of the more successful songwriters in Nashville, but there's actually something that contributes even more to the distinctive identity of Cadillac Three albums than the songs themselves, and that's feel.

Many a singer has sung of mustering the strength to overcome hardship; it's the stuff of blustery power ballads, irrepressible empowerment anthems and aggressively aggrieved rock sing-alongs. But it's a simpler thing to narrate that act through lyrics than it is to embody that experience through a vivid performance.

Nashville gospel singers the McCrary Sisters know how to make a 500-strong crowd feel like they've been personally invited to the party.

There was a time, earlier in their careers, when Alabama-born sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer took care to give each other space. They seldom showed up on each other's recordings or offered on-the-record comments on each other's careers.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Advisory: This album contains profanity.

By now, we've been living with the popular archetype of the singer-songwriter for half a century or so, and multiple generations have worn their grooves into it, accumulating familiar lexicons along gender lines. We learned to expect our troubadours to work with particular personas, settings and themes, depending on whether they were women or men. Depictions of self-discovery through restless rambling were often heard as expressions of masculinity, while femininity was more closely associated with craving a settled existence and valuing intimate attachments.

From the sounds of things on the phone, Lizz Wright is going about the business of her daily life while she gives thoughtful responses to her interviewer's questions. There's the ding of a bell as a shop door closes behind her, a whispered "Hi" and, later, the electronic chiming that reminds you to fasten a car's seatbelt.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


When musicians take inward turns and begin penning lyrics that scrutinize the lives they're living, they'll often underscore the maturation and sophistication of their perspectives by striking a pensive tone. That way we'll hear how serious they are about doing away with facades. But that's not the only method of making artistic use of personal catharsis.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

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