#LuckLists - Lola Kirke
all photos by Gabriel Barreto
Lola Kirke’s latest live show at New York’s Union Pool was a evolution and distillation of her new album, Heart Head West, for Lola and her audience. In an evening seemingly blessed by Julee Cruise and Joni Mitchell, Lola’s oldest sister, Domino Kirke, opened the evening with a breezy and richly emotional sound, setting the air ablaze with synths, rolling bass lines, and her open and wailing voice moving through like a slow tornado. Next up, Lola’s music educator, bassist, and longtime friend, the witchy and wonderful Cassandra Jenkins. In what looked like a black cardinal’s robe, she played song after song that lulled you into a certain sense of comfort in melody or tone, she would throw in a simple key change, or tempo shift, and subvert those things we make all to often about one another… assumptions. On stage with Cassandra was Lilah Larson playing lead guitar. Besides the amazing breakdown she and Cassandra had on stage for her final song, the Sons Of An Illustrious Father guitarist brought out a EBow with a blue light that stunned (both visually and aurally) with a mind-melting magnetically-charged feedback-driven solo.
Finally Lola Kirke took the stage in the same yellow suit she wears on her album cover, taking stance in front of flower-garlanded mic stands, looking over a room she has now sold out three nights in a row, filled with friends, family, and fans, ready to share in our delight as she plays out her life in song. I don’t mean to be over-the-top but it truly felt that way, as if we got to hear a very personal and exciting tale of someone many felt they knew through work in another medium. Lola embodied a persona of herself, both powerful and vulnerable, but always honest. The sound on the album compared to live was different, but as I think we’ve all experience the disparity of sounds from studio to stage, Lola’s tight live band was anything but disparate. Bringing in Hannah Read on fiddle in place for what may have been keyboards, or another guitar on the album; Lola kept her musical roots close at hand. Her sound was that of someone keeping her comforts of her more Country/Folk EP close while flexing her evolving muscle of a genre-bending Indie Rock artist with close ties to so much of the history of American music.
Two days later we hopped on a phone for a quick interview...
Luck: How did you feel about the residency at Union Pool?
LK: It was so fun. I’m, like, super exhausted now though and eating a piece of corn.
Luck: A bit of a Sarah Lawrence question here, but based on this new album and songs like Sexy Song and Monster, what is radical self-love to you?
LK: What is radical self-love? Wow...In my attempt to understand it, its has been basically about accepting myself as what I am, and discounting all of those negative voices I’ve internalized over the years that told me what I am isn’t good enough.
Luck: Favorite Joni Mitchell album?
LK: Oh god, oh my god. Well, first would be Hejira, but Court And Spark is a close second; and I really love Hissing Of Summer Lawns. Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter is fantastic too… and HOW could I forget Blue. I guess it would be Blue, Hejira, and Court And Spark I listen to the most, but I love all of them. Thank you for asking that!
Luck: Of course! There is a lot of wonderful Joni in what you do in voice and sound.
LK: Oh god, so flattered! Thank you so much!
Luck: Who is an artist, old or new, who you think people are sleeping on?
LK: There’s so many… One artist that I really love is a woman named Bonnie Guitar. She’s now 86 and she still plays at the Elk’s lodge in her town every Saturday. She’s really incredible, and they don’t really have her records on Spotify, some [songs] on compilations, but the records themselves aren’t there. I really recommend seeking her out, particularly the album Affair.
Luck: Thank you for making a Luck List for us, but you’ve been making playlists on Spotify for a while now, somewhat curating my musical life at times. We know why you’ve made this playlist for Luck, but why do you make your playlists?
LK: I’ve just always done it honestly. When I was younger, I would always make mix CDs for the car, our family, and friends. Then when people stopped listening to CDs -- I don’t even have a CD player in my car at this point -- I was kind of like, “what is the future of compilations?” Then I realized I could make some playlists, but nobody was really listening to them because it was still so impersonal, you know. Like there was no way to give a playlist to a person, but now I have a certain kind of platform and I’m like, “I want to share this with everybody.” So that’s my impetus, just something I’ve always done.
Luck: Last one! How is Americana defined now, as you see it? What do you think it could be/should become?
LK: Well, there are so many different definitions of Americana, or at least two that I’ve come across; and one of them is the very basic of/or concerning itself with American History. The other is a more poetic one that someone at the American Music Association shared with me which was, you can hear the dirt between your ears...or something like that. I guess for me, I’m just curious in a moment where our notion of what America is is changing so much and moving away from this like white-male ideal, which was, I think, how so much Americana music came into this world. Like, what should it encompass? I just recenlty wrote something about the band for Talkhouse (https://www.talkhouse.com/tears-of-rage-on-modern-americana-and-the-band/) actually, how The Band was this Americana band who were actually Canadian, and what could be more American than dreaming something so big and just becoming it without getting any permission to do so. I’m just curious to see how beautiful those dreams can be and how American art right now can help be a source of healing and inspiration and growth, in a time when American politics are the opposite, largely.
1. Mandolin Wind - Rod Stewart
I’ve always loved Rod Stewart’s voice but recently discovered this whole record and it’s everything I wanna hear always.
2. Who Am I To Tell You - Cornelia Murr
Cornelia’s voice sounds like a rip in the fabric of time so co-writing with her is always divine. I loved this song we made together and this whole record generally.
3. Closer to You - Amo Amo
This is one of my favorite new bands. A lot of these musicians in it play on my record too, which makes me feel so lucky. Lovelle Femme’s voice murders my soul in the best way and I can’t to hear everything else they do.
4. Gypsy - Wyndham
Wyndham is a huge inspiration to me. He produced both my record and EP and his own music is lush and sexy and always filled with gems.
5. Future Games - Fleetwood
Again this whole record is bananas but this song kills me and proves the Mac has always attacked.
6. Delivery - Mikaela Davis
The title track off her stellar record, I love this song and how Mikaela combines sounds like randy Newman and Elliot smith with her own gorgeous sense of self.
7. Muddy Water - Free
When my grandmother passed away, she gifted me her entire collection of my dad’s records. There was so many Free records I’d never heard and Heartbreaker was one of them. It blew my mind. This is my favorite song off that great record.
8. Home - Sheryl Crow
I love Sheryl crow but this song shows another side of her I rarely get to see.
9. Blue Skies - Willie Nelson
I like to listen to this whole record alone in motel rooms at night when I’m traveling. So beautiful.
10. Tennessee Waltz - Cassandra Jenkins
Cassandra is a musical hero of mine. She’s taught me so much and now we play together and it makes me feel so lucky. This is a song she had me sing on from her latest record. I just adore it.
11. Understand - Anna St. Louis
I just love these lyrics and this arrangement and am so excited to hear more things Anna makes!
12. Still the Same - Bob Seger
Can I just love this song? Cause I do.
13. Someone Else - Lilah Larson
Another musical hero who I’m lucky enough to play with, Lilah’s debut solo record Pentimento slays me. This song breaks my heart.
14. It Never Entered My Mind - Miles Davis Quintet
Now that I’m becoming an adult I find myself listening to more jazz and I like it!
15. Half Blood - Domino Kirke
I grew up being blown away by my sister Domino’s voice and music. Her latest record, Beyond Waves, makes good on her constant promise to amaze and expands beyond even that.
16. Killing the Blues - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
A sign that I’m maturing is that I adore this gem of adult contemporary music by two complete legends.
17. Alexander - Hannah Read
Yet another hero! Hannah and I play together and her latest record is a complete landscape of expertise and love and talent. This song is a favorite.
18. Anchin Kfu Ayinkash - Dahlak Band
I could listen to this all day long. Such a gorgeous song.