Rock and roll music is full of road songs. This isn't surprising considering how many days per year the average musician spends on tour. The majority of these songs, from Bob Seger's “Turn the Page” to Creedence Clearwater Revival's “Lodi” are dire songs about the rigors of life on the road. The duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing, collectively known as Hymn for Her, has never been bound by rock and roll convention and their new album Drive Til U Die is not only not dire about touring, it is an eleven song love letter to the nomadic life.
While the bus or van is the reluctant home of many a touring musician, it's the permanent one of Hymn For Her as they, along with their eight year old daughter, live in the 1961 Bambi Airstream trailer that serves as their tour bus full time. Towed by a van with an odometer topping 500,000 miles, which the group will proudly state equals a trip to the moon and back, every track on Drive Til U Die is dynamic proof that every mile of those 500,000 was lived to its fullest. From the hard rocking opener “Devil's Train,” with its defiant line “taking this ride 'til the well runs dry” before jokingly skewering any Jack Kerouac-esque romanticizing or rock and roll riches stereotypes with “sorry Hayes Carll, I got you on Spotify” to “Hi Ho Silver,” which inexplicably manages to take the preparation checklist to get the Bambi on the road and turn it into a rock and roll anthem; the entire album hums like tires on a highway.
Musically, Hymn for Her has always confounded critics. Attempts to classify them by critics have resulted in hilarious new genres such as “hillbillies with electronics” and “Hell's Angels meets the Amish.” If a pair of Deadheads bonded over their shared love of The Ramones and Led Zeppelin and decided to form a band, they'd probably sound a lot like Hymn for Her. Everything they do is unconventional, from Tight's penchant for banging out hard rock power chords on her electric cigar box guitar to Waxing's acoustic guitar through a distorted tube amp swamp rock.
But not everything on Drive Til U Die is a hard to define hard rocker. As befits a road record, the album was split into two recording sessions, with the rockers being recorded in Nashville with producer Vance Powell and the more earthy ballads showing off Tight's strong vocal work being recorded in North Carolina with producer Mitch Easter. Rather than seeming disjointed, the split recording works for Hymn For Her, with gentle ballads like “Mazzy Star” and “Seas of Croatia” providing a breather from the rockers.
The album's highest point comes in the song “OneBigAchinHeart” when four generations of the band family come together, with Lucy and Wayne joined by a chorus of their 102 year old aunt and their 8 year old daughter. When the four sing “everybody misses somebody”, you get the feeling they're singing to each other and the audience is just lucky enough to have gotten the results.
If you find yourself complaining about the homogenization of rock and roll, Americana, country, or folk music, then Drive Til U Die is the cure for what ails you. It's guaranteed nothing else that comes out in 2016 will sound like Hymn for Her. It's likely nothing ever could. For these modern musical gypsies, the songs are too much a reflection of their lives, the miles they've traveled, and the people and places they've seen to ever be replicated.
Drive Til U Die will release Aug. 12.