Album Review - Lilly and the Implements
Here at Hello Texas, we spend a lot of time trying to "define" what Texas Music actually is. Is it a type of country music? A mix of country and rock? Maybe some Americana/folk music blended in with that? Is the singer/songwriter aspect of it the most important part of it?
Turns out the answer is an emphatic "YES" to all of those. But maybe no. Turns out, it depends on YOUR definition of what Texas Music is to define what it means. And that's a little different for every listener. For us, it's the character behind the songs and the effort to get those songs out to the public that makes Texas Music so valuable and something worth hanging on to. It doesn't matter if it's country or rock or soul or folk. It can be one or all of that. As long as there's meaning and passion behind the songwriting and performances. And that brings us to the debut album for a little band from Central Texas called Lilly and the Implements. It's what Texas Music is. And it's more. But let's start at the beginning.
Many years ago, my hobby of photographing music took me to a great little pub in downtown Temple, Texas, called O'Briens Irish Pub. It's a decades old establishment with a balcony, a wonderful bar and staff, and a unique stage, and is just a great place to have a drink and listen to some great local and regional music. Back then, there was a rock cover band by the name of Hanger 24. The unique thing about the band was it had two fabulous lead singers - Meagan Meek and Lilly Milford. After the band broke up, Meagan moved around (but is now back in the area). And Lilly just kept going. Acoustic gigs for years, giving up and trying to find another way, and then always coming back to the stage.
Lilly Milford off stage is humble and probably painfully shy, although she does a good job of battling through that. And through the years, I've watched Lilly perform numerous times. While unique, when I attempt to describe Lilly's voice and style, I describe it as the power Janis Joplin with the story-telling of Dusty Springfield. Off stage she is sweet and unassuming. But behind the microphone, Lilly comes alive. Not afraid to hit the notes with all that she has. Never afraid to take the song to where many don't dare to take it. The poetry is in the performance as much as it is in the voice.
A few years ago, Lilly was giving the gigging her best shot and asked longtime friend and singer-songwriter, Wes Perryman, to help her put a band together for a show in Austin. An amazing artist in his own right, Wes is a farmer from Moody, Texas, and his deep knowledge of rock and folk music has had him doing acoustic gigs right along the same timeline as Lilly. Wes just happened to have friendship with another amazing musician, Jon Napier, out of Austin, Texas. The two had been playing gigs together. And at Barrow Brewing Company in Salado, Texas, as luck would have it, a local drummer by the name of Evan Sheppard really dug their sound and asked if he could just jam with them. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Wes suggested he bring Jon and Evan to rehearse with Lilly. The only catch was - Jon didn't want to play bass.
Then they rehearsed and the first sounds of Lilly and the Implements were heard. And Jon agreed to play bass.
The combination of the four, with Lilly's unique songwriting, Wes's deep knowledge of rock and folk with a simple but powerful guitar style, Jon's impeccable musicianship and knowledge of the production side, and a flashy and dependable drummer with Evan made for something that just isn't seen on stage much - unique and good. There's plenty of unique. There's a whole lot of good. But it's hard to find a band that has equal amounts of both. The combination of the four musicians just works. The crowds at their gigs grew. Everybody clamored for merch or an album or something tangible. So, the band got busy planning and late in 2019, they traveled to Cibolo Studios in San Antonio to record an album with famed producer Chet Himes. Everything was fitting in to place just perfectly.
Then Covid. So, since 2019, the band has found different paths to survive and thrive, with occasional shows together. All four bandmembers play with other artist and/or do solo gigs. But the magic of Lilly and the Implements still lives on stage. And it's been sitting on tape for over a year and a half. Until today - July 9, 2021. With the help and encouragement of Grammy-nominated drummer Giovanni "Nooch" Carnuccio III (formerly with Turnpike Troubadours, Cody Jinks, Jason Eady, and others) working on finishing the mastering and helping with the finishing touches, the Lilly and the Implements debut album is available to stream and listen to on all available platforms today and is worth your time. It's everything Texas Music should be - organic, passionately written and passionately delivered. Defining the sound of Lilly and the Implements is unapologetically difficult. The album has classic rock vibe of the late 60's, which fits the style and look of the band.
Track 1 - If I Go Away Lilly Milford's ability to convey such a sad and lonely tone with Wes's simple guitar melody is a great introduction to the album. Track 2 - Let Me Know The guitar riff of Wes Perryman kicks off this song with Lilly matching the power in the chorus of the song. This has always been a highlight of their live show and doesn't disappoint on the album.
Track 3 - Hush This song alternates from Lilly's haunting verses and the powerful play of Wes, Jon, and Evan and showcases the unique sound of the band more-so than any song on the album. Track 4 - Fire Fly
One of the more under-rated songs in their live performance. This song has a great groove that builds to a climax of Lilly's powerful vocals. Track 5 - Baby Jade If you listen to one song on the album - this is the one you should pick. This song was written by Lilly years ago and started as a sweet acoustic song that was unassuming. And over the years, it grew into an epic story and is, in my opinion, the band at their best - live and recorded. During their live performance, this is the song that evokes standing ovations and sometime tears.
Track 6 - Hollow A perfect song to follow Baby Jade. Hollow goes back to Lilly's unique story-telling tone. Track 7 - Bones To wrap up the album, Lilly brings out the sassy tone and Evan Sheppard's drums shine in this upbeat and memorable song to linger after the music is over.