Living the Life’s been a long time coming: Ingrid Lucia already discussed the album in an OffBeat cover story and promised a Voodoo-timed release a full 13 months ago. But you can tell how important it was to get this one right. Lucia’s a gifted musical actress who’s slipped into different roles over the years, first appearing as a retro-styled siren and gradually turning hipper and edgier. Along the way, she managed to personalize songs as diverse as Lou Reed’s “After Hours” and Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman.” But Living the Life is about dropping the masks and telling her own story—which, as it turns out, is the most compelling one she’s told to date.
Because Lucia conceived the album soon after her father’s death, there’s a certain amount of growing up and taking stock in the lyrics. (Lucia wrote all but two songs, collaborating with guitarist John Fohl and bassist/producer Roland Guerin on those). But if that suggests a sobering album about mortality, guess again. Rather, it’s about living—not just well, but coolly and romantically—as things get more complicated. She turns to Jesse Winchester for the one flat-out tearjerker, “I Wave Bye Bye,” which is effectively understated. But there’s a different statement of purpose in “You’re in for a Wild Ride”—a tune she’s done live in recent months and dedicated to the straight-laced guys who’ve gotten involved with edgy women. “I’ve got ideas that will blow your mind,” she promises, before shifting to come-hither mode for the chorus. Women can take this song as an anthem; guys are more likely to ask where they can sign up.
Musically, Living the Life is her most diverse album. While Lucia has flirted with rock in the past, it’s always been from a safe distance. But rock is fully in the mix here, along with torch ballads, jazz and bachelor-pad exotica. Opener “Do You Remember Walter” hails from the Kinks’ fan-favorite album, Village Green Preservation Society, and her casting Walter as an ex-flame instead of a school friend only makes it more poignant. Even the retro-styled tunes feel more personal this time, whether she’s being tender on the title song or playfully neurotic on “Taking a Vacation from Myself.” While one ballad here notes that “Dreams Aren’t Just for the Young,” this album as a whole says that love and adventure aren’t, either.