I have run hot and cold in reaction to Melissa Etheridge’s music during the course of her almost twenty year career, but my reaction to her new release is very warm indeed.
Fearless Love finds her in all out rock mode. I am talking in-your-face, Bruce Springsteen-type rock ‘n’ roll. The band is stripped to basics with guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. The return of guitarist John Shanks helps a lot, as his playing is never better, which enhances her sound.
The past couple of years have contained difficulties for Melissa Etheridge. She has fought cancer and ended a long-term relationship. Somehow she has survived, at least musically, as the lyrics are introspective, personal, emotional, and ultimately triumphant. They show a maturity as she allows the listener to journey with her through her thoughts about politics, self-awareness, and feelings concerning life.
The title track gets the album off to a rocking start and makes it immediately apparent that this is a Melissa Etheridge who has not been around in awhile. The lyrics remain high quality, but the upfront guitar sounds surround them with a wall of sound.
There is a lot of good music to be found here. “Miss California” contains some of the more incisive lyrics of her career as she rants against the issues surrounding California’s Proposition 8. “Only Love” goes in a different direction as it places the focus squarely upon the purity of her voice. “Nervous” is a nice boogie rocker that explores the edginess of relationships.
I listen to a lot of music and rarely does a song stay with me for any length of time, but such was the case with “Indiana.” It is just about the perfect rock song. It begins gently, but by its conclusion has become a hard rock anthem. The story is inspirational and the music builds and changes but retains a melodic foundation.
Fearless Love has a power and beauty to it and is her most consistently excellent release since Yes I Am. It may not be the perfect rock ‘n’ roll album, but it is very close.