More People Really Should Know About: Stephanie Lambring

Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

It’s a rare experience, but sometimes a song just hits you like a ton of bricks on the very first listen, and boy did ‘Fine’ by the wonderful Stephanie Lambring do that for me – even before it reached the first chorus. “If I never get married / Is there something wrong with me?” Lambring asks, completely candid and honest. “I don’t dream about the dress or someone to get old with / I’d rather be free.”

I was instantly hooked, so I searched for the album ‘Fine’ was part of and was rewarded with 2020’s ‘Autonomy’. Once again, I was immediately in love with Lambring’s freshness, her candour and her magical ability to address even the most difficult and disquieting feelings in a way both poetic and relatable. There are the descriptions of the sinister insidiousness of coercive control on ‘Mr. Wonderful’, while ‘Pretty’ manages to conjure up still too fresh memories of a time when it was commonplace for grown men to have an opinion on the bodies of teenage girls. “When I was 17 / Some old has-been said to me / ‘Honey, you look like a million bucks / But if you lost 30 pounds / Oh, just think about it / I bet you’d look like 20 million’,” Lambring sings in a way only someone with lived experience can.

It should be noted that ‘Autonomy’ wasn’t Lambring’s first album, and that 2008’s ‘Lonely to Alone’ was actually her debut. It was an album that gained some airplay in the UK via Bob Harris, leading on to Lambring doing some touring over here in 2010. ‘Lonely to Alone’ itself seems to have been mostly scrubbed from the internet, and I myself – not having been a fan at the time of its release – have only managed to gather six of the 11 tracks. The songs are well written but sedate, giving just hints of the honesty and rawness she would later embrace to such effect.

Lambring has since reflected that she didn’t feel ready to be an artist in her own right when ‘Lonely to Alone’ came out, and consequently she then took a step back and moved into writing songs for others for the next decade, with one song (‘Coat of Pain’) even ending up on the successful country music drama television series ‘Nashville’. She is nothing if not truthful in her lyrics, and if you want any further exploration of that period between ‘Lonely to Alone’ and ‘Autonomy’, just refer to ‘Daddy’s Disappointment’: “I was 23, got my first big break / Learned how to make a living out of old heartache / Burned out 16th Avenue ’til I had nothin’ to say / Just a pawn in a game I never wanted to play.”

This is not to say that Lambring only writes from her personal lived experience: ‘Joy of Jesus’ is a searing attack on the Christian right and their anti-LGBT+ rhetoric (“She caught him red-handed in her minivan / Goin’ down on the quarterback / So she sent him to camp to get reprogrammed / Cure that abomination”) and following a similar theme, ‘Somebody Else’s Dress’ looks at life through the lens of a woman in love with another woman but trying to live her life stuck within the confines of conservative ideals (“Her daddy says he’s got the solution / Line ‘em all up in the backyard and shoot ‘em / Bet he’d have a change of heart if he knew his baby daughter was one of those ‘sickos’ / Sometimes Christians ain’t too Christian”).

To me, along with Lori McKenna, she is simply one of the best lyricists working today and the power of her new single, ‘Good Mother’ – about a woman who realises that motherhood isn’t for her a little too late – just hits home my point: “They say it’s the hardest / Best thing they’ve ever done / But if it’s just the hardest / You can’t tell anyone.”

The accompanying new album ‘Hypocrite’ is coming on the 19th April, and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to hear it.

About Helen Jones 132 Articles
North West based lover of country and Americana.
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Alan Peatfield

I believe I made a few comments re. Stephanie approx 6/7 months go when you listed her in your Top 10 Greatest Americana Artists. You are clearly a critic of discernible taste! I was lucky enough to pick up on her debut back in 2008 and then catch her live on her short tour of the UK. Over the next 6/7 years – nothing, although I became aware that she had recorded a number of tracks on Soundcloud that hadn’t seen the light of day; so, I contacted her and she was kind enough to send me approx a dozen tracks not available anywhere else (as yet).
So Helen, if you’d like “Lonely To Alone” and the dozen or so unreleased tracks, feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to oblige. Alternatively, speak to your colleague Graeme Tait. He too is smitten and I helped him out with the debut album plus the other tracks. Enjoy.

Helen Jones

I’m happy you commented because I actually thought of your comment on my Top 10 Greatest Americana Artists when I was putting this together! Thanks so much for the kind offer of the songs I’m missing! My email is helen.jones@americana-uk.com and if you could send me ‘Lonely to Alone’ and the other tracks my way, I’d be very grateful. 😀

Ronnie

She also put out a 5-track EP I managed to pick up when she played Maverick Festival

Alan Peatfield

Hi Ronnie
Would you be so kind as to list the 5 tracks from the EP you have. I’d like to check whether I have them or not. Many thanks in anticipation.
Alan