Lynn Drury, “Rise of the Fall” (Independent)

Lynn Drury’s eighth album continues the exponential growth as a songwriter that began in earnest with Sugar on the Floor and her most recent release, Come to My House. The John Porter–produced Come to My House was the culmination of her steady rise into rock diva territory, an aggressive, guitar-driven statement of purpose. Having reached that feisty vista, Drury decided to pull back a bit for this new release and concentrate on the songs themselves rather than a specific sound. It’s another breakthrough because when they’re allowed space to breathe, Drury’s songs are beyond category, touching everything from classic folk singer-songwriter to country, white girl soul and roots rock. Rise of the Fall is the virtual definition of that slippery catch-all genre called Americana.

Drury’s growing self-confidence is reflected in the fact that she co-produced this album with Iguanas bassist Rene Coman, her bandleader on the session. She is no longer looking for musical guidance in the studio—she is confident in her writing and knows what she wants her songs to sound like. As a result, the material really gets to breathe and show its contours.

“Lifetime of Living” is a statement reflecting worldly wisdom without sounding world-weary. “Don’t you forget it,” Drury sings, admitting mistakes made along the way as the words flow over a gorgeous bed of sound highlighted by Jack Craft on cello and Sam Craft on violin, Derek Huston on baritone sax and Jake Gold on B3 organ.

She’s always had a knack for a catchy chorus but here they grow like wildflowers—“Anniversary,” “Cold Feet” and “Taking All the Good People” all sport the kind of sing-along refrains that have inspired Drury’s fan base.

“Cold Feet” should be a country hit for somebody if not Drury herself. Adkins plays a beautiful guitar accompaniment and a perfectly articulated one-chorus solo on the song. Elsewhere he employs a slide sound that delightfully recalls George Harrison. When the understated “Water Your Words” follows, the context makes it sound like another country tune (great backing vocals from Arsene DeLay) but in another setting it could be a blues or folk tune. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Drury asks. If not exactly an answer song, “What Good Is the Rain” (“if it don’t wash away the pain”) continues the country mini-set with a stirring, heartfelt vocal performance and a great slide solo from Adkins.

From here it’s a buildup through the second half of the album beginning with the dramatic ballad of a title track, which includes a well-designed guitar solo from Alex McMurray, and continuing through the angry kiss off of “Tuesday Lover” (“he was nothing…”); “Freedom Tree,” which belongs on a David Lynch soundtrack; the slinky New Orleans R&B of “I Need You”; the elegiac “Taking All the Good People” and the emotionally powerful finale, “Shutter.” Drury ends as she started, with a warning to keep an open, but not foolish, heart. It’s the lesson that comes from a lifetime of living.