On Motion Audio
It is testament to the resilience of the human spirit to not only recover from exploration to the fringes of the human experience, but to return from the journey more steadfast and fully formed. It’s a notion explored by writers like Kerouac (On The Road) and Krakauer (Into The Wild), whose protagonists have chosen to live deliberately in a world without boundaries, regardless of the circumstances. During the time after the release of 2007’s 'Bloom', Lou Rhodes found comfort in those stories while she navigated through the valleys of her own life, absorbing both the end of a precious relationship and the death of her older sister. What she emerged with is the most complete and lucid body of solo work she has ever written.
“Music, art, writing...it’s like some magical psychic drainage,” she says. “A way of tapping into the bigger picture of all it is to be human. There are times when I wake up with a deep, profound sadness that I can’t explain, but I don’t view it as a terrible thing. For me, it taps into something very real. A lot of my songs come from that space between happiness and sadness. It digs you deeper into life.”
'One Good Thing' charts a course through Rhodes’ exquisite journey, her guitar keeping pace along the way with finespun melodies that wrap her lyrics in warmth and clarity. A transcendentalist poet with a romanticist’s heart, she embraces despair and discovery with equal resolve, and the songwriting on this album reflects that passionate balance in earnest. For Rhodes, 'One Good Thing' is more than just the name of her album’s opening song. It’s a hopeful affirmation that forms a cornerstone of her identity.
“Sometimes there’s one little thing that lifts you up for a moment and plugs you into what’s good in the world” says Rhodes. “It might be the sun rising over the trees or a beautiful thing that one of your kids does. There’s so much in this life we can’t control. All we can do is find the joy in the little things that happen to us along the way.”
Recorded in the short space of two weeks, 'One Good Thing' is typified by a closer bond between Rhodes and her guitar; a relationship that wasn’t fully explored on her previous albums. The debut album 'Beloved One' was tracked at Ridge Farm Studios — where Rhodes also happened to live — and follow-up 'Bloom' was recorded in a more traditional studio setting. As a result, most of the guitar parts were played by friend and collaborator Steven Junior. This time out, Rhodes was able to track vocals and guitar together, and the songs benefit from that cohesive union. No click tracks. No overdubs. Just the rough-hewn immediacy of calloused fingers running up and down roundwound strings.
“The performances are very honest,” says Rhodes, “my touch points were artists like Nick Drake and albums like Nico’s 'Chelsea Girl'. Things that were recorded in a very timeless way. Because I’d worked on my playing, it was possible for me to do that.”
With the exception of a few subtly placed percussion accents, the 11 tracks on 'One Good Thing' are intimate dialogues between Rhodes and her guitar, supported throughout with lustrous string arrangements by Antonia and Mike Pagulatos. Delicate, finger-picked passages in songs like 'There For The Taking' and 'One Good Thing' resonate with a simple magnificence, leaving even more open space for her vocals to shine, even through songs that extoll the imperfect beauty of humankind. “It’s only human to yearn for something more, but it’s finding nothingness that brings us all we’re searching for”, she sings on 'Janey', one of the album’s most deeply personal songs, and also one of its best.
From the start, Rhodes knew she wanted to self-produce 'One Good Thing', a task she had never before undertaken. Though she had "romantic notions” of going off to create the album in an exotic locale, none of the scenarios panned out. Instead, something manifested itself a bit closer to home - longtime Lamb partner Andy Barlow offered up his home studio for the recording. He also offered to engineer, record and mix the songs, thus allowing Rhodes the creative freedom to produce the album herself.
“Andy and I had worked together for so long, and I suppose the biggest question I had was, ‘Would he let me make my album?’”, Rhodes chuckles. “He was absolutely fantastic in that. He would come up with ideas and suggest things, but if I told him I wanted to keep it simple, he let me be. Andy’s like my brother. Sometimes we wind each other up, but we can be very honest with each other as well. It was a perfect place to make this record.”
The combination of familiarity, immediacy and autonomy afforded Rhodes the ideal atmosphere to bring this new collection of songs to light. 'One Good Thing' also represents a new beginning with label partner Motion Audio, an imprint co-owned by Cinematic Orchestra’s Jason Swinscoe, an oft collaborator of Rhodes’. “It all happened very quickly because it felt like the right thing to do”, she says of the pairing. “I believe that life shows you the way quite a lot of the time.”
Regardless of what it had taken away, life and circumstance presented Rhodes with a different path; one that she’s still following as she prepares to bring these new songs to the stage. The haunting 'Circles', featuring a tipsy slide guitar from Steven Junior, perhaps distills it best. “Life moves in circles, and so does my mind,” she sings, “Thought I was wiser but it seems I was blind.”
“The depth to which I feel music...I feel it’s taken on a much stronger significance in my life”, says Rhodes. “I feel thoroughly self-expressed with this record.”