Lynn Drury didn't pick up a guitar or start writing music until her mid-20s, but when she did, the songs poured out. With Rise of the Fall, her eighth studio album out Sept. 29 via CSB Roxy Music, Drury was at the helm for the first time, doing her own production (along with co-production from Rene Coman, bassist with the New Orleans Latin-rock band The Iguanas) and offering a more intimate emotive collection of songs influenced heavily by her roots.
Drury was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and grew up on a 500-acre farm in Carriere, Mississippi, an hour from New Orleans. She spent her childhood riding horses competitively, participating in 4-H shows, singing with her family in church and listening to stories about an aunt who played guitar.
"My first horse show was at age 5," Drury says. "My dad was very competitive and very serious about it. I grew up immersed in that and being on the farm and in country music. My dad and my mom weren't musical, really, but they loved music — the old Merle (Haggard) and Willie (Nelson) and Hank (Williams), and, of course, Elvis."
After Hurricane Katrina, Drury made playing music a full-time career. In 2011, she released Sugar on the Floor, recorded with Ivan Neville, Alex McMurray, Tommy Malone and others. Her 2014 album Come to My House was produced by Grammy-winner John Porter. Her love of The Smiths informed a lot of her past songwriting, and Drury honed a sound she dubbed "NOLAmericana," a marriage of '80s sounds, old-time country, rhythm and blues and New Orleans groove.
But Drury didn't think the sound of her albums matched her intent.
"I think I'm only now beginning to intimate the musical vision that I've been trying to get on every album," she says. "I always felt like it wasn't really what I had in my head. With (Rise of the Fall), being able to be in charge of production, I think this is the closest I've gotten so far. I always wanted some rawness, just honest, authentic, emotional music. Less polished, more intimate. I think I'm finally starting to get there."
Drury's synergy with her band helped. Guitarist Chris Adkins, saxophonist Derek Huston, cellist Jack Craft, violinist Sam Craft, Jake Gold on the Hammond B3 organ and a host of others perform on an album that is at once diverse, outspoken, steady and true. The wealth of instruments used in recording was a bonus, allowing Drury and Coman to draw out classical string section climaxes, as in "11:11," and New Orleans horns and rhythm in "I Need You." Intricate harmonies mark the title track, "Rise of the Fall," while the lovely "Water Your Words" is a standout track.
"'Water Your Words' was the catalyst for getting in the studio in the first place," Drury says. "It's a heavy song, especially with what's going on with everything racially these days, and everything that's going on in rural places, and in New Orleans. And musically, it really sounds to me like being back in the country as a child, which is exactly what I was hoping for."