Loveland Duren – Any Such Thing (Edgewood Recordings)
Pair return with their third…and best album to date
As we read in the liner notes to Any Such Thing, the third release from the Memphis duo of Vicki Loveland and Van Duren, this wasn’t an easy process. First, the pair traveled from Memphis to LA, onto London and then spent a month in Australia, promoting Waiting: The Van Duren Story documentary, which has only seen limited exposure (but is fantastic, btw). Then, the pandemic happened, sending everyone scurrying home. Despite the album being put together in fragments, it’s their most cohesive and finest effort yet.
Their previous two releases, 2013’s Bloody Cupid and 2016’s Next are both excellent listens, it’s just that Any Such Thing sounds more focused. Loveland is a force of nature. Her voice has a soulful, “yeah, lived it” quality that seems to deepen over time. And Duren sounds rejuvenated – this is the finest singing he’s done in years.
The album opens with “Tumbledown Hearts,” the catchiest song the duo have ever created. Loveland and Duren each take a few lines of the verses, before blending their voices for the stellar chorus. I love the bridge and the fantastic guitar solo from Adam Hill, who’s worked on their previous records. I found myself singing this one hours later.
Up next is “A Place of No Place,” a timely snapshot, with references to “children in cages” and “hateful speech.” It questions why the hell we seem to be taking large leaps backward as a country, yet the rocking accompaniment, featuring the Back to Memphis horns and Loveland’s impassioned vocals, make this bit of truth easier to swallow.
The ballad, “Within Crying Distance,” is another stand out, and an excellent showcase for Loveland – I’m getting a Memphis, Otis Redding feel from this one.
The layered production of “Ain’t It Pretty to Think So” gives off a mid-period John Lennon vibe (think: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”) and has fine sax from Art “Paper Bag Brown” Edmaiston. Their world travels get documented in “Skywriting (Tasmania),” which features a very nice bridge section that goes in a completely different direction, and gives Liam Grundy a chance to play some fine piano.
Things shift gears for “Funny Way of Showing It,” driven by pulsing strings reminiscent of “Eleanor Rigby,” with a little Brian Wilson french horn thrown in for good measure. There’s a quirky element to “Where Are We Going,” which admits that “love is all there is.”
This is the first of their albums to feature piano prominently. That, and Duren’s excellent vocals, echo some of his fine, early solo work. Maybe a year looking back on his career rubbed off a little? One example of this is “Everyone is Out of Tune,” which contains pounding piano, some tasty chord changes and another fine sax break.
I think what really stands out here is that the songs are really strong. “Bridges I Had to Burn” is a great country rocker – I like the way Eric Lewis’ guitar echoes Loveland’s lyrics. He also adds some excellent mandolin to the track.
The vinyl edition features a gatefold sleeve, which contains all the lyrics inside at a typeface that you don’t have to squint to read (ok, that last part is only half true – I’m old, I still had to squint, but not as much). Plus, the nice 12 x 12 size shows off the spectacular front and back cover featuring a stunning piece of collage art. And, there’s a personal note from the duo inside talking about the music-making process – some of my favorite artists did this in the past.
The city where both of them are from has always been a melting pot for diverse musical styles. In Any Such Thing, Loveland Duren have taken the best of what Memphis has to offer and created an entire album of strong, memorable songs that will linger long after you’ve hit the stop button. —Tony Peters