Stephanie Lambring is hardly the first singer-songwriter to arrive in Nashville with tales of a loaded upbringing full of parental over-involvement. But on “Daddy’s Disappointment,” the opening track to Lambring’s new tour-de-force LP, Autonomy, the Indiana native mines such pestering into one of the most irresistible roots-rock gems of the year.
“Every little country opry, every little country church,” Lambring sings over a mid-tempo groove that evokes the melodic country pop-punk of Lily Hiatt’s last two records. “I hated every canned applause, every damn half-verse.”
The song is a biting piece of familial drama, with Lambring coming to terms with the lasting consequences of paternal pressure. “I knew that to process my complex relationship with music,” the songwriter has said, “I would have to dive into my dynamic with my dad.”
As a songwriter, Lambring can claim co-writing credits with sharp contemporaries like Caroline Spence, Andrew Combs, and Hailey Whitters. Her new album (which is also her first since her barely heard, self-released 2009 debut) contains deep meditations on faith (“Joy of Jesus”), John Prine-esque observation (“Old Folks Home”), and sweaty honky-tonk grunge (“Fine.”)
But “Daddy’s Disappointment,” with all its wounded vulnerability, finds the singer singing brightest. “All that potential, but you don’t have the drive,” she sings during the super-charged chorus, the harsh, damaged words of an imperfect father ringing in her ear. “All I learned how to do is how to prove him right.” The triumph of the song is hearing Lambring disprove the song’s premise wrong with each successive one-liner and note-perfect hook.
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