Paul Mitch (left) and Corey Mathew Hart have become musical soul mates.
Years in the making, well worth the waiting, Lost Lakes’ self-titled debut album brims with folk-pop songs that are pretty on arrival and downright addictive after several plays.
Corey Mathew Hart is one of the Midwest’s most gifted songwriters, and he’s lucky he crossed paths with bassist/vocalist Paul Mitch, who helps take the carefully crafted tunes of Lost Lakes to the next level.
Not that they intended it, but I get the feeling Brad Paisley is sitting around waiting for someone to deliver him “Can’t It Wait,” a radio-ready, unimpeachable pop country number with a stadium-shaking chorus. The mix and production values shimmer in the hands of producer Justin Guip (Levon Helm).
The Statler Brothers meet Yo La Tengo on “Give Up the Ghost.” The song mingles forgiveness with grudge. Hart’s voice midway through, pleading, pure, sounds as if it might shatter apart just before the song modulates and surges into the second half.
Hart is a foxy composer. Guitar chord changes, sometimes mid-measure, are surprising little brush strokes in “Digital Tears.” Monastic and moody, Rusty Lee’s plaintive organ, a tad too under the mix here, is the song’s conscience. And the number finishes with a spooky, mystical round.
The collaborators both became fathers while recording this album. The maturity that experience renders is on display in “Cold War.” Mitch sings lead here in a vintage, Decemberist-style cut that begins with guitar and voice only. A military drum pattern falls in line next. A final layer, deep into the song, is Hart’s harmony. His arrival is at once surprising and inevitable.
There’s more. The album’s Brad Paisley B-side is the languid, longing “One Horse Town.” The most up-tempo of the package, “Summer Rains,” is Mitch’s second turn singing lead. Simple and punchy, the melody is a Sufjan Stevens-like spin propelled by a cool, tangled-up acoustic guitar phrase.
On the downside, the paint isn’t quite dry on “Mona Lisa.” “Whiskey River” is a chorus in search of a song, but oh, what a chorus — some of the mightiest music on the record.
“We don’t pretend to play music that people will get up and dance to,” Mitch says. That theory will be tested when the full band plays the hook-heavy “Free Love” at a release party at High Noon on March 9. The soul number is sure to spark ass-wagging. Here’s hoping they let keyboardist Lee off the leash for this one.