Paula Cole - Lo album

Paula Cole – Lo (Album Review)

Paula Cole 2024

Back in the ‘90s period of popular music there were a bundle of talented singer-writer types getting plenty of deserved Pop radio airplay. You have the likes of Alanis Morissette, Sherly Crow, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, but also a young woman out of New England named Paula Cole. Cole, first earning attention singing with Peter Gabriel during his 93-94 Secret World Tour, soon began to pick up traction, and by the time 96-97 rolled around was scoring Top 10 hits. A steady progression forward of success for the performer, Cole’s 1996 album The Fire scorched charts with singles such “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” and “I Don’t Want to Wait.” Tracks that still receive plenty of airplay today, Cole has continued to move steadily forward with her music in the nearly three decades since.

Very much an autobiographical writer, Cole has never forced the writing, and following a near decade hiatus between her 1999 Amen and 2007 Courage albums, she has remained rather prolific. No doubt finding inspiration and letting the music flow freely, since 2007 she has put out six studio albums all the way through to 2021’s American Quilt. Each offering something a bit different in terms of style and theme, now in 2024 she lets you inside once more with the new studio record Lo.

Lo, released on March 1, 2024 through 675 Records, is a special one in many regards for Cole. To start with, it is her first studio album since 2015’s 7 to feature entirely new, original songs. Quite exciting, if you have followed Cole in recent years you are aware her recordings have given you insight into her influences and inspirations; featuring Jazz and Folk songs from a large spectrum of places. That being said, Lo unifies these influences into something inherently personal for Cole. What this means is much like her prior original works the theme of these tracks are very close to her own experiences in life and the emotions felt during that time and place. Truly poetic and straight from the heart, each song is presented in a Folk Rock style with Pop intuition.

Offering eleven songs in total, perhaps as a whole Lo is not as Pop radio friendly in the way Cole’s earlier material may have been, but what it does have is a weighted substance. Carefully composed – with instrumental contribution from Jay Bellerose on drums, Ross Gallagher on upright bass, Chris Bruce on guitar, and Rich Hinman on pedal steel and guitar – production itself (done by Cole) lends itself almost to a live recording. Feeling very much like an intimate acoustic performance where you are front row while Cole and her band perform under dim light, the mood plausibly felt.

What this mood is inner reflection, dealing with loss, struggling with our own insecurities, and finding comfort in lessons learned. Rather mature and insightful, some of the tracks that really provoke you would have to include “Follow The Moon,” “Invisible Armor,” as well as “Wildflower.” This is while others such as “The Replacements and Dinosaur Jr” (a tribute to Cole’s lost friend & mentor Mark Hutchins) and “Letter From A Quarry Miner” are anything but irresistible and simply cool sounding.

Overall, Paula Cole’s Lo shows us that wisdom does come with age as long as we are humbled by past experiences. Clearly in touch with herself and grounded, Cole has applied such matters into new music that is engaging and beautiful. In all, Lo is a diverse Folk Rock album that will appeal to long time Paula Cole fans and also those who may have not taken the time to look deeper into her discography beyond the early hits. A delightful listen, Cryptic Rock gives Lo 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Paula Cole - Lo album
Paula Cole – Lo / 675 Records (2024)

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