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Artist Spotlight: Lillie Mae

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Lillie Mae isn’t quiet. At first approximation, she could pass as a punk pioneer of the Riot Grrrl movement– even with a fiddle. The moppish Mohawk she sports above her wide doe eyes would’ve seemed out of place in country music 40 years ago. Her clothes too— a mish-mash of consignment cute and bowery chic. It’s an attitude and a look honed on the road and in the honky-tonks of the new Nashville. Her surname is Rische, and then she was Jypsi along with her siblings Amber-Dawn, Scarlett, and Frank. The Rische kids learned music and Jesus from their father, Forrest Carter, who led his clan to every music festival and revival he could reach. Eventually, all ears were on Jypsi, but it was Cowboy Jack Clement, the great character and pioneer of production, that brought the Risches to Music Row and Arista Records in 2008. Jypsi enjoyed modest commercial success, avoiding a breakout, but their residency at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn drew bona fide admirers including another Jack and character: Jack White. In 2012 Lillie Mae was invited to join Jack White’s touring group, The Peacocks and, why wouldn’t she? Nashville’s great and all, but the highway headed home, or at least the next one.

The two Jacks had a lot in common. The Cowboy was a rock n’ roll studio vanguard with pop sensibilities– he could smell a hit. Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Townes Van Zandt… Those are just a few of the folks The Cowboy wrote for and produced. Jack White, like the Cowboy, has legends on his resume too. White has worked with Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Neil Young, and since the dawn of the 21st century his production and music has been heard in nearly every genre emanating from any radio in America. Jack Clement and Jack White also both saw the world in Lillie Mae. The Cowboy passed away in 2013, and about that time, White began encouraging Lillie Mae to record a solo project.  Lillie Mae isn’t quiet– she sings, strums her guitar and mandolin, fiddles. She wants to craft in the style of Guy Clark, emote like Lucinda Williams. But why compare? The new album, Forever and Then Some reaches and comes back with more than platitudes and associations. Lillie Mae finds space to tell her tales real and imagined– space she probably could only find at Third Man Records. Jack White’s vision of Third Man has evolved to become a label, venue, record store, and studio where his Dr. Frankenstein can cobble together sonic creations for vintage vinyl release. It’s within that realm that Lillie Mae found a focus for 20 years of asphalt, bluegrass, and fundamentalism– a catechism that combined with White’s musical mad science to distill a nouveau countrypolitan made effervescent by pop rock.

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