Kristy and I are very different ages and different places in our lives as women. Kristy is in her mid-20s and I’m in my late-30s, and I have a lot of things that I would like to say as a songwriter and as an artist if women my age want to hear someone speak about the stuff that’s going on for us that’s a little bit different than women who are 18, 25, 30. When you’re approaching 40, you’re in a whole different world of issues, and I would like to be writing about that and singing about that, really following my voice and my particular, specific, creative vision.
— Buffy Lawson in December 2007, announcing her departure from new-country duo Bomshel.
Five years after leaving Bomshel, Buffy Lawson offers the first recorded proof that she has taken creative freedom by the horns – in effect, doing exactly what she had envisioned for herself way back when. I’m Leaving You for Me, her solo debut on Wrinkled Records, is as raw and emotionally naked as Lawson appears on its cover. In her forties, Buffy is a take-charge kind of gal: making her needs known to a mate (“You’re All I Never See Anymore”), laying some motherly wisdom on a teenage daughter (“Dear Sarah”), scrubbing off dysfunctional relationships like layers of dead skin (“Take a Good Look at Gone” and others). With a big, soulful country voice and brassy arrangements, she’s equally possessed of Reba’s dramatic sensibility and Tanya Tucker’s spunk. But – and here’s where she diverges from younger singers who can ape those things without doing something with them – she applies both to the real, believable concerns of a middle-aged woman, unsexy but important endeavors like struggling to provide for a family and learning to acknowledge your own faults. As a set, the songs are as strong as anything McEntire or Tucker have assembled this millennium. If radio ever takes a notion to acknowledge the existence of women beyond the age of 30 or so, I’m Leaving You for Me is a worthy auxiliary to Trisha Yearwood’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love to show how this brand of contemporary country can be done well. Let’s hope country’s current ranking class is taking notes. If they’re not careful, they might someday find themselves over 30 as well – and what then? You can’t be the fastest good girl in town forever.
Recommended if you like: Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker
Grade (Pass/Fail only): PASS
Preview or purchase I’m Leaving You for Me on iTunes (but only until it’s on Amazon)