The music world always seems to push against Melissa Etheridge, and all she does is keeps pushing back. Lucky stands as Etheridge’s eighth album and while each prior effort has its own history, its own cause, if you will, none have ever seemed to get branded “essential” by the decisive press. When is the last time you found a Melissa Etheridge record on a “desert island” list or any notable publication’s top 500 albums of all-time?
I would submit that she represents the female version of Bruce Springsteen in many ways, a muse for the common man (and/or woman), and yet many of her new releases go unheralded and her mere name fails to suggest legitimacy. True, her personal life of lesbianism and raising David Crosby’s love child tends to write more headlines than her music. Hell, her last album, 2001’s
Skin, was little more than a highly-paid psychiatrist’s homework project for dealing with that nasty breakup from Julie Cypher.
But let’s stick with Lucky here because it does hold some merit. The opening title track is raucous and slick, like “Come to My Window” and “I Want to Come Over” before it. Her passion and unadorned being are jammed right down your throat from the outset, as Etheridge spews, “I want to drive to the edge and into the sea, and want to see how lucky
Lucky can be.” The affecting, even if predictable, “Tuesday Morning” carries the torch for fallen 9/11 hero Mark Bingham, a passenger on Flight 93. “Will You Still Love Me” plucks the acoustic strings and offers a beautiful ballad, while the model FM radio punch of “Breathe” makes you wish she put out a new album every six months.
Still waiting for the kicker? Well, remember, this is Melissa Etheridge. We’re not talking about earth-shattering compositions that define a generation or anything. Instead, we’re talking about a buoyant legend in her small circle who, at the end of the day, is very much a part of the American rock landscape. It’s just that she tends to be the wilted, roadside flower and not the towering, brawny oak tree.
Lucky is still a good record, just like half the rest of her catalog. But 20 years from now it won’t be pushing Springsteen’s
Nebraska out of any spots on the Rolling Stone Top 100 Albums of All-Time. There you go, middle of the road again..