Pegi Young has been in the news recently because of her estrangement from Neil Young. What seemed like the perfect rock pairing have split after 36 years, which is clearly a matter for them and them alone. What is important is that Pegi is a very fine musician and frankly its about time that the talent in the Young household is recognised as extending beyond one man. Indeed "Lonely in a Crowded Room" is in many respects a far more spirited affair than the lacklustre "Storytone" where Pegi Young's impeccable R&B voice is in fine form. In the "Survivors" she also has a top class backing band made up of longtime cohorts keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Kelvin Holly, and drummer Phil Jones, as well as the great Rick Rosas who sadly died recently and backing vocalists Paula and Charlene Holloway.
"Lonely in Crowded Room" is a very nice album. Young has a smoky, dusky voice that is tailor made for for this type of punchy country rock as evidenced on the excellent opener "I be Weary" which is underpinned by a great vocal and tough lyrics. Certainly parts of the album resonate with the anguish of lost love, not least her cover of the Bob Luman's hit "Lonely women make good lovers" and the poignant soul of her cover of Irma Thomas's "Ruler of my heart". Perhaps the best of the lot is the tough rock n roll of "Feels like a Memory" which has echoes of Rosanne Cash and which you should head to as the starting point for downloads. Interestingly Pegi Young is a staunch environmentalist and in "Better livin' through chemicals" she eschews the simplistic green cliches of Neil Young's "Who's going to stand up" for a funky jazz-blues indictment of the pharmaceutical industry which lands its punches with ease. Finally the gorgeous restraint of "In my dreams" shows that the late Dusty Springfield's influence continues to great effect with a slinky louche blues standard that oozes class. Overall while no new ground is broken on this album, it does it job well in terms of delivering a fine mix of soulful tear jerkers to swingy jazz.
Inevitably "Lonely in a crowded room" will be viewed through the prism of the Young's divorce. Yet Pegi Young is a musician who has paid her dues, has her own clear identity and on the evidence of this album deserves much more deep musical respect, particularly now that the long shadow of her ex husband receding, allowing in turn her bright light to shine through.
Review by Red on Black