If you don’t know Becky Warren yet (as this critic admits was the case before these songs landed in my inbox), you soon will. Just one listen to the sophomore disc from the Nashville-based songwriter will leave you wondering where this Americana angel was hiding. Picture the love child of Neil Young and Lucinda Williams.
The follow-up to Warren’s solo debut (War Surplus, 2016), Undesirable grabs you from the get go and does not let go until the final song. It's driven by gritty guitars, infectious rhythms, and heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics that linger longer than a bad hangover. Over the course of 11 songs, the blue-collar Nashville singer-songwriter mines themes of the “never fit-ins” and the piles of “forgotten forget-me-nots” that live among us.
The record, produced by Dan Knobler (Rodney Crowell, Lake Street Dive), opens with a rollicking tune about “regrets and nicotine.” The driving, punch-to-the face lead single, “We’re All We Got,” chugs along like a high-speed train. The chorus speaks of the downtrodden and the lost souls. Warren wails, joined by Indigo Girl Amy Ray, “Just a bunch of half empties / a couple of last shots / a pile of forgotten forget-me-nots / We’re all we got.”
One of the best cuts is “Nobody Wants to Rock ‘n’ Roll No More!”. The song speaks to the loss of innocence and youth – women too tired to rock ‘n’ roll because they are too busy with carpools and the ennui of domestic duties to enjoy the music they once rocked out to. Concurrently, it’s a statement on the dying “music industry” today, whatever that means.
A pair of other standouts is “Dabbs Avenue” and “The Drake Motel.” On the former, Warren ruminates about the too-quick beat of time and trying to make peace with a lost lover, while the shadows remind one of what’s not longer there.
On “The Drake Motel,” we hear the story in song of Shawn Lesley, one of too many Americans referred to as "motel homeless" — a term coined to define those who make enough money to afford basic housing but can’t meet other requirements needed to obtain an apartment. One of the more poignant compositions on Undesirable, this is a place where “for $300 a week, you get cheap sheets and a parking lot view.”
Americana awards 2019 take note. Warren is definitely an artist to watch.