Singer/songwriter Lauren Crosby issues a stunning addition to her critically acclaimed discography in the brooding I Said Take Me to the Water, a record that is as defined by its bold lyricism as it is its evocative instrumentation. In songs like the countrified “Something Strange,” folky “I Work, I Work, I Work,” homespun “Madison, Maine,” and the playful pop tune “Is That OK,” Crosby exhibits a comfortability with the studio environment that had only been teased at in past releases, and though her swagger is off the charts in her latest studio cut, it never comes close to devolving into conceited arrogance. There’s an introspective bend to “Dead River Road,” “Sunshine in My Soul” and the immaculate closer “That Picture,” and while the substance of the narratives in these songs is anything but inaccessible, the whole of this album feels remarkably personal and heartfelt. Crosby isn’t holding anything back in I Said Take Me to the Water, and I don’t think that there’s much debate as to whether or not she’s struck the perfect balance in her hybrid sound here.
The lyrics throughout this record feel as intimate as diary entries, but there are also plenty of easygoing tracks in I Said Take Me to the Water, such as “Why Are You So Blue?,” to balance out the more cutting material, i.e. “Skylights.” More often than not, Crosby favors hauntingly confessional prose over a more predictable, streamlined variety of pop poetry, with songs like the exotic “You Don’t Need a Rose” standing out as among the more experimental in nature. “Tak City” melds an unconventional beat with a stirring string arrangement, but the avant-garde stylization doesn’t make more straightforward tunes like “Something Strange” seem out of place in the least. Lauren Crosby has one of the more diverse skillsets of anyone in her scene, and in many ways, I Said Take Me to the Water exploits her talent more efficiently than anything else she’s ever released has. If you’ve been following her since day one, you’re going to instantly notice a lot of growth and maturity in these tracks, and if you’re just now discovering her work for the first time through this LP, I have a feeling you’re going to be just as impressed with her erudite songwriting style as my fellow critics and I have been.
From start to finish, it’s hard to pry yourself away from I Said Take Me to the Water and the eleven songs that comprise its tracklist. While she’s turned in some really impressive stuff in the form of her self-titled 2014 debut and the vibrant live affair Black River Beauties, I think it can be said that Lauren Crosby has truly come into her own on this latest album, and if there were any critics who were unsure of her legitimacy prior to now, I’m fairly certain that they’re going to be satisfied with what she’s constructed for us in this devastatingly handsome disc. From “Skylights” to “That Picture,” there’s something to suit most any playlist missing that special slab of alternative Americana in this record, and although there’s plenty of good music worth writing home about this season, this is definitely among the best that I’ve heard thus far.