Agony and ecstasy give way to peace in Amy Loftus new album, That Whole Entire Time

Patrick O’Heffernan
(Los Angeles) Like most multi-talented artists, Amy Loftus is prolific, especially in music. Her catalogue is extensive, especially for a woman who first started releasing songs only ten years ago when her first album, Straight to Amy, came out. Since then she has released over thirty songs, multiple singles and numerous albums and EPs, all of which reveal the many parts and pieces of a decade of focused living and obsessive songwriting. Her latest album, That Whole Entire Time, pulls together of all of the pieces of herself that we have listened to over the past decade into a single, nostalgic picture that is as memorable as each of the songs it fits together.

As you look at the whole of her career – from acting in Second City, songwriting and soloing in Nashville, a voice-over and commercial work in Hollywood, to writing songs for television shows like “Sons of Anarchy” and finding time for painting, parenting and yoga teaching, you realize that a new album from Loftus is a big deal, a distillation not only of a life of years, but of a life of clashing and mating creative forces.

That Whole Entire Time is exactly that, a big-deal distillation of Loftus’ many muses and inspirations, tempered and finished by experience of in the artistic vortex of Los Angeles, where she now lives, and polished with the national session musicians and production talent found in her adopted hometown. That Whole Entire Time is a fat album with 12 finely crafted songs – “all thrill and no fill” as we say in the music industry. Beautifully encasing her songs in the kind of jewel box presentation rare these days, Amy not only gives us music and photographs, but the lyrics written in her own handwriting. The message is clear, listen with care and you will be rewarded.

She opens with “1959,” a heartfelt paean to an old-fashioned love she feels for her husband, who lived – unknown to her – near the tree in her neighborhood that was her touchstone the whole time she traveled and built a career. Her musical and emotional growth between “Free 410” on the Better album and “1959” on this album is dramatic; Not only is the voice more mature, controlled and emotion-laden, but the self-confidence of inner peace – always on the edges of Loftus – pours through every measure and lyric. If this was the only song on the album, it could go platinum.

But fortunately, it isn’t. She kicks up the tempo and brings back a little Nashville with “Wouldn’t be Good” a song with addictive hooks and singable lyrics that brings you up and prepares you for the soft colors of next up, “Out of Time.”

Out of time/out of time/ everything it takes to make a clock unwind…but baby, I believe we’ll make out alive (she sings, but then reminds us, like Shakespeare, that) you don’t tell your maker you wrote the script as you see fit/you just act in it.

This is why Amy Loftus stays with you.

Her songs also stay with you because they can be painfully honest as in “Far.” I sang up on Sunset/got treated like spit/Got promised I’d be the next major hit/waited for my boyfriend to get home from the bar/he couldn’t care less… She sings of a very dark time in her life. Many artists do the same, but the intensity of the pictures she paints are almost too painful to listen to but are impossible to turn away from.

She takes the pain away with the joyful title song, which brings together all the parts of her present life – husband, children, music, sun, surf, bikes. I was yours that whole time, she proclaims, with a twinkling of country music behind her. The song is about life in Southern California, the feel is Nashville, and the message is as good as it gets. But memories of the hard times are never far away in the album, even when she is singing in the sunshine she reminds us of that in “Undertow,” “Sun and Sky Blue” and “Workingman.” Each song is a memory of hard times in her past while each displays the range of her talent, broadened over the years from her country beginnings.

Then she looks to the future in what I think is the most powerful song on the album: “The Wind.” The song is about an incident when her boyfriend (now her husband) bought a motorbike and she was happy he got his toy but secretly thought that now he isn’t going to get her a ring. He did, of course and the song for that incident accompanied her down the aisle.

There is another interpretation, one she agrees with: the agony/ecstasy of watching your child grow up and away. Don’t let me hang, hang onto him/or call him mine/this belongs to the wind… she sings, finishing the song with as good a rendition of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” that I have ever heard, not only because of her voice, but because of the context she put it in… let life of the person the person you love – child or mate — be. As a parent, the blend of a song from my youth that could be about my child made me stop and wait for the lump in my throat to pass. Once again, almost too painful to listen to, but too powerful turn off.

She returns to the theme and the man, she sang about at the beginning of the album in “Not What It Seems,” describing the state of mind of a woman who gets up every morning denying the abuse she is living in and focusing on the reasons she is in the relationship, in her case a decade long life with a man who broke her heart but taught her songwriting.

I cooked and I cleaned everything in its place/where the blood was no trace…sometimes I miss being me/like when I was happy/like when I was three. Painful and powerful.

She ends the album with the pieces of herself coming all together, transitioning with a nostalgic by hopeful “So Many Sundays,” sung with piano and violins and her catch-in the-throat voice, leading us to the last song “Without Me,” where she tells us with simple guitar accents that her life is …the landscape of my time here in a vehicle I don’t steer… Agony and ecstasy give way to peace. That Whole Entire Time is a triumph of talent and a culmination of living. Listen with care and you will be richly rewarded.

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!

That Whole Entire Time by Amy Loftus
Available at www.amyloftus.com, CD Baby.com and iTunes
Apple tree records.

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