Chely Wright - Lifted Off The Ground

Chely Wright was one of the late 1990's most successful female country singers.  After the hits came to an end, she started releasing recordings that were highly personal and more narrative.  How does her latest album pan out?

After about a decade of record label and indie music struggles, Chely is back with Lifted Off the Ground.  In 1997, Chely Wright released “Shut Up and Drive,” in which a woman’s conscious provides a voice over to her leaving a bad lover.  It managed to be both witty and intensely introspective.  There are echoes of this song on “The Object of Your Rejection.”  However, this song is directed outwardly at a lover, and comes across as the sort of naggy stereotype that women’s magazines advised women not to be.  Likewise, “Wish Me Away” squanders lovely vocals and melody by trying to convince a petulant lover to stay in a relationship there seems to be no reason to desire revived.  “Damn Liar” suffers from a much more recent comparison, Miranda Lambert’s seething “White Liar.”  Unfortunately, not even an awkwardly placed “you’re a fuckin’ lair” can help this song match Lambert’s fury.  Girl Power kiss off songs are risky ventures that only rarely work.  Chely Wright has the wit, but lacks the anger and grit to truly pull them off. 

Wright is better in the moments when she turns the pen on herself.  In the lovely, stripped back "That Train" she longs for the freedom and speed of a passing train.  “Snow Globe” is a trippy dreamscape which finds musing “is this a bad dream or the best dream that I ever had” as she plays ion her mother’s childhood and dodges bullets.  There are a few tracks on the album where Wright speaks of relationships with startling clarity and depth.  “Like Me” plays like a lullaby to a best friend, but sneaks in quiet references to gender issues and sexual ambiguity.  The album’s first single, Believe, begs for openness in a burgeoning relationship.  “You hold a little back, in case you leave, that way I can’t take all of you, but that guarded part of you is the part I need, so I don’t feel like a fool,” she croons in the chorus.  Her songs hit their mark when they are about introspection and discover rather than revenge.

Chely Wright’s 1999 release Single White Female was an almost perfect Girl Power country album, which created a perfect story of a young woman in the 90’s.  Lifted off the Ground is neither as cohesive nor expressive as that album was.  It does however, have moments of nearly pure bliss.  What you will not find on this album is an “Unknown” or “She Went out for Cigarettes.”  What you will find on this album are 'the next best things.'  And, for some songs, that is almost good enough.