Not everything in life is sunshine and rainbows. We have our highs, and we sure do have our lows. San Diegan contemporary folk artist Lindsay White understands this as well as anyone, but rarely do such accessible songs lean into such dark territory. As this writer had already stated when I premiered this record last summer, Lights Out “takes the often celebratory nature of music hitting our airwaves and flips it flat on its head.”
Yet, this absolutely is not a bad thing by any means. Oftentimes, when we reach those aforementioned lows, we need that extra bit of catharsis to get us through. White provides us with that shoulder to lean on in this record, and it is utterly compelling. Of course, this is in due part thanks to White opening her heart and letting us into the less-than-stellar times she was experiencing around the time she wrote and recorded the album as well.
“The recording timeline paralleled my mom’s illness and death,” White said of Lights Out, which originally wasn’t even going to follow the thematic trajectory it did prior to this happening. Even still, the troubadour was already wading through tough times as is, and the album centers itself on the idea of losing loved ones near and dear to. It also reflects on divorcing a husband and marrying a wife only to fall under religious scrutiny, as well as helping someone near to her through manic episodes.
Yet, all of this is tread-upon territory from our premiere, as compelling as it is. The meat and potatoes of project are how that subject matter is applied musically to this record, considering that it is, in fact, a collection of songs. As far as arrangements go, White has created an album perfectly reflective of its themes. It feels soft, yet like a tempest, and sullen, but never quite downtrodden.
The pensive, nostalgic heartache that pervades the majority of the album is ferried to the shore by White’s compelling vocal performance paired around fittingly sparse instrumentation. It feels minimalistic and spoken straight, without the frills of understatement or overzealousness that overpopulate too many of today’s “folk” releases.
It’s obvious, listening to these songs, that White is a professional at what she does with a number of years under her belt. Yet, not all pros are able to create something so warm and so human with such a pulsating heartbeat as Lights Out. It’s more than just the work of a prodigy that makes this art sing. At its centermost point, it’s the unbridled passion that White invokes into everything about her performance that make this album a must-listen.