Michaela Anne has garnered considerable acclaim for her insightful songwriting. The New York Times praised the “plain-spoken songs of romantic regret and small-town longing” of her 2014 album, Ease My Mind, and the Village Voice listed it among its “Top 5 Country Albums of the year.” Her latest album, Bright Lights and the Fame, is continuing that trend with acclaim from the New York Times, NPR, Rolling Stone Country, Noisey, and more. Recorded at Farmland Studio in Nashville, with special guests including Rodney Crowell and Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers, the album is full of sharp observations and easy wit, with several upbeat numbers tailor-made for the nearest honkey-tonk.
While there are gentler, more personal aspects to the album that recall her earlier work, Bright Lights and the Fame displays a newfound brashness, starting with the album’s cover image, in which Michaela Anne sports a bedazzled denim outfit, a vintage find that’s perfect for catching the spotlight. Michaela Anne can be pensive and tender on songs like the rueful “Easier Than Living” and the soul-baring “Star,” but she’s upbeat and swinging on tunes like the two-stepping title track and the hell-raising “Liquor Up.” As she explains, “My intention was to be honest with my songwriting but not just in a super-reflective way. I wanted to try and show the fun, free-spirited side of it as well.”
Bright Lights and the Fame was produced by guitarist Dan Knobler, who, like Michaela Anne, had relocated from Brooklyn to Nashville. Michaela Anne and her band mates recorded Bright Lights and the Fame in one room, cutting basic tracks live. That gives the album a feeling of immediacy, a congenial spontaneity. A few other Brooklyn ex-pats join Michaela Anne on Bright Lights and the Fame, too. Punch Brother Noam Pikelny plays banjo on “Worrying Mind” and singer Kristin Andreassen co-wrote “Luisa.” Other guest stars include singers Corey Chisel and Erin Rae, and Rodney Crowell, arguably the progenitor of today’s Americana sound, lends his distinctive elder statesman’s voice to the rollicking “Luisa.”
Bright Lights and the Fame immediately welcomes you in. Michaela Anne’s songs are candid and convivial, heartfelt and fun, like a night on the town or an intimate conversation with a friend. You’re definitely going to want to hang out a while.