Blues Bytes


July 2017

Karen Lovely
Fish Outta Water

Karen Lovely

I was backstage at the IBC in 2010 when Karen Lovely took second place, and I’ve followed her career from that point on. Karen is a good friend, and her record, Still the Rain, got me through a very hard time in my life and I thank her for that. Her new disc, Fish Outta Water, is her most eclectic release yet and a definite breath of fresh air.

Rick Holmstrom is on the guitar as Karen kicks off with the title track, and it’s her reflection on being far from ordinary. “Fish outta water…stuck in the daily grind…fish outta water…running out of time.” Fortunately for her, Karen’s not obsessed with the need to fit in and this tune echoes those sentiments perfectly. Matt Tecu is setting the tone on the pots and pans as Karen segues onto “Under the Midnight Sun.” Sasha Smith adds a Wurlitzer to the mix and I love the complexity of the arrangements. “I’ve been bruised…but never been beat…living life on the run…under the midnight sun.” Karen’s a survivor and adept to co-existing to wherever life may take her, including a couple of great tours in Iceland, the land of the midnight sun.

“Twist My Fate” is our next track, with producer Eric Corne lending his harp to the mix for this tune. “Turn and run…stand and fight…maybe I should just keep…out of site.” Karen’s in a relationship that has its quirks, and rolling with those punches has her considering the twist of fate she’s experiencing in the relationship.I find “Waking Up the Dead” an interesting tune because the opening bars remind me of a theme song to a western TV show from my misspent youth. “Scary monsters…kicking up the range…take a gamble…throw it all away…hook, line and singer…we bought the con man’s game…he’s right before you…waking up the dead.”

The band moves on to “Big Black Cadillac,” and here we find Karen struggling to fall asleep with memories from her past. “I can’t take back…memories of what I’ve done…big, black Cadillac…take me back…through the dusty roads…of West Texas.” Karen locked her abusive lover in the house and burned it to the ground. Now she’s forever haunted by those images as she travels the dusty roads of West Texas. Rick Holmstrom’s fretwork is scintillating, and I’m really enjoying the variety of sounds I’m hearing from the band on this disc. A heavy bass line from Taras Prodaniuk drives our next tune, “Everything Means Nothing,” and here Karen’s reflecting on the dichotomies that exist in her reality. “Waiting here for a 1,000 nights won’t get you back…everything means nothing.” Somewhere between love and hate…passion and desire…existed a love worth having, but in the end, everything means nothing.

“Hades’ Bride (There Was a Time)” finds Karen reflecting on a love and the various ways he used to manipulate her. “There was a time when I pushed…a time when you shoved…there was a time when I was Achilles…you dropped me to my knees.” Eric Gorfain lends a sense of melancholy to this tune with his violin, and I love Karen’s brilliant lyric writing in this tune. She moves on to “Molotov Cocktails,” when the time to do some damage has come. “My lips they move…but you can’t hear…the words I whispered in your ear….the world’s turned…bridge’s burned…let’s have a round of Molotov cocktails here.” This is a very dark tune and Karen sings it with relatively calm sense of perspective.

“Next Time” has Phil Parlapiano on the keyboards, and Karen promises to do better the next go around. “Next time I’m going to make the world less violent…next time…I’m going to shine a brighter light.” Karen’s looking to the future with a more optimistic view and it’s guaranteed that things will be better “next time.” “Nice and Easy” has a very somber introduction to it as Karen sings about her struggle to leave a man who’s cheating on her. “I’m lost…beyond reason…and I can’t deny…the chemistry…but as good as we can be..her hooks are in you way too deep…so let me down…down…easy.” Hopefully he finds the strength to do so and lets Karen walk away with her broken heart.

I’m only peripherally aware of the story of the subway musician that Karen sings about in “Punk Rock Johnny Cash,” but this is her tribute to him and his legendary performances. “Singing for beer and cigarettes…that you mostly gave away…made just enough…to keep on playing…if I told you how I loved to…hear you sing that song…if I said how much it meant…would you still play on…I can hear you play that song.” Punk Rock Johnny ultimately committed suicide and his passing left a memorable impression on Karen.

Karen closes with “The River’s Wide,” a remembrance of the challenges conquered in one of her relationships. “Just look me in the eye…say, here I am…standing by your side.” There’s a time to run and hide…and a time to stay and fight…Karen’s hoping he’ll stay and fight.

Fish Outta Water is a unique record from Karen Lovely and kudos to producer Eric Corne for weaving a vast array of performers and their instruments into a disc that supports the complexity of her songwriting here. I have all four of Karen’s discs, and this one is by far her best work to date. There’s a measured maturity in her songwriting that’s a joy to hear and, most importantly, Karen is true to her vision for this record. It’s not a thematic “programmed for radio” effort, but rather a real statement of where Karen is as an artist and songwriter. Modern contemporary blues should sound like this and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

You can find out more about this artist from the Pacific Northwest at her website,, and grab a copy of Fish Outta Water while you’re there. This disc will receive strong consideration for a number of awards as the year goes on, and deservedly so.

--- Kyle Deibler



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