Luanne Hunt – Portraits In Song

 Luanne Hunt – Portraits In Song

Luanne Hunt – Portraits In Song – Album Review

You know…it’s pretty crazy to realize that even though this will technically be the eighth time I’ve written about Luanne’s music over the past three years, all-in-all, that still barely scratches the surface of how much she’s accomplished with her entire career.  This fine lady has LIVED a lotta life – and I mean that in the truest since of the definition…it’s been inspiring to watch Luanne continue to find new ways to blossom not only as a musician, but as a person over the course of what’s been quite a pivotal stretch of time since I’ve been listening.  Not only has she made a point of trying all kinds of new things with her songwriting & style as time marched on, but she’s endured through a whole ton of personal stuff in the background during that timeframe, including the loss of her husband of thirty-six years, an entire move to relocate to Florida, a brand-new studio to record in, a new team to work with…the list could theoretically still go on from there I’m sure.  It hasn’t all been bad…in fact if you read her story & bio & her details online, you’ll know most of this has actually turned out to be positive; a lot of it likely pushed Luanne out of her comfort zone at times, but as I’ve pointed out…I suspect there’s a part of her that thrives on that challenge too.  She’s even found a brand-new love along the way – described as her “soulmate Jim” on her website, and she’s also written about the man & their relationship on a couple of the tunes from this new record Portraits In Song.  Incidentally…I told ya she’s an inspiring artist when it comes to her work ethic & this statistic will prove it to ya – Portraits In Song is Luanne Hunt’s 21st album!

So there ya have it folks…take Luanne’s story as a guiding light for your own – no matter how hard, weird, strange, tough, or uniquely difficult any situation might be or become, life can still reveal some of its best magic for the chapters to follow.  Never give up…always keep going forward…and if you play your cards just right, you too might find that each and every day offers something worth gettin’ outta bed for.  May you all be as passionate about something as Luanne has been about music in her lifetime.

It’s funny how an impression can stick with ya.  In my head, Hunt’s a Country singer…likely because that’s how I was originally introduced to her music back in 2018, and probably at least a lil’ because Luanne just sounds like it fits so naturally with that genre and the good ol’ southern comforting vibes.  That being said, she’s certainly proven to be so much more versatile than any one genre would fully cover in a description of her music, and increasingly so over the past several years as she’s tried out new things throughout her career.  I mean…c’mon y’all…like I said, take a page outta her playbook will ya?  Luanne’s been incredibly smart about making her music and found all kinds of ways to keep it exciting, fresh, and new – not just for us as listeners, but for herself as an artist as well, which is really the key to longevity.  Am I surprised that she’s on her TWENTY-FIRST record?  Heck no!  I definitely commend the milestone and achievement, don’t get me wrong – but dedicated artists do great things & a whole bunch of’em, and they generally waste no time if they can help it.  Luanne Hunt is an artist through & through – I’d assume she needs to make music like the proverbial fish needs water or we need air, you feel me?

I think for myself personally, knowing just a fraction of Luanne’s full story, the biggest surprise for me actually came straight away in pushing play and hearing “It Was Always You.”  This is quite the tune, quite the statement, and quite the dedicated declaration of love as well.  As to why it threw me for a bit of a loop on that initial spin…you gotta understand…over on this side of the screen, I’m busy reading details and words and trying to get a grip on any artist or band’s story that comes my way…all I really knew for a while there was that her former husband had passed away suddenly in the middle of my listening to Luanne’s music.  Within the details of many of these tunes, “It Was Always You” definitely included…you really start to get more of the complete picture…and to be truthful, you’ll end up starting to wonder if there was an element of her previous marriage that was holding her back in many ways, personally and professionally if you’re reading between the lines.  That’s at least one way to look at it, and it’s only a theory, certainly no disrespect intended over here on this side of the screen.  I prefer to look at it from the other side of the coin anyhow, which “It Was Always You” details perfectly – the profound experience of rediscovering a love that’s been there all along, just waiting for its chance.  I’ve absolutely been there…one of my most heartbreaking moments in life came long ago when I had to tell a wonderful lady that I wished we’d somehow met at another time that made sense as opposed to the one we were in where we were both attached & in other relationships.  The conversation happened because the love was real…we both knew it, but it was like something we couldn’t completely acknowledge in fear it could become every bit as real as we thought it was, and complicate life I guess.  “It Was Always You” details a similar storyline, but one that gets its happy ending, where the two lives in question end up together at long last, though it has indeed taken some time for this moment to occur.  Now that it has, Luanne’s wrapping both arms around it all & squeezin’ it tight – she’s clearly discovered something special in realizing her “soulmate Jim” was always there for her “through the ages of time” – & with a declaration like “I will spend forever loving you,” she’s found what she’s been missing all along.

Working with a classic & charming sound at the heart of the melody on “Ozark Mountain Morn,” Luanne slides right into the timeless vibes of Folk/Country, which is well within her wheelhouse for sure.  While there’s an argument to be made that this would be perhaps the closest in style/sound many of us tend to consider Hunt’s music to be like, there’s always something to be said for goin’ with the natural flow.  The versatility of this record speaks for itself at the end of the day, so a quick departure into more familiar territory for Luanne is no problemo…the scope of Portraits In Song shows her exploring many different directions when it comes to what we hear, and her longtime fans will certainly welcome the inclusion of a song as sweet & endearing as “Ozark Mountain Morn” is.  When I say ‘sweet’ – trust me, I ain’t kiddin’ around, and neither is she – Luanne’s nearly right into the syrup here with the sentiment expressed throughout “Ozark Mountain Morn” – but let’s be fair…when you consider where she’s at in her life right now & the love she’s found with Jim, you know the story & feelings behind it all are real.  Bonus points for the impeccable fiddle work from Brian Daniels, the melodic keys from Hal Ratliff, and the brilliant guitar solo from Wilson Woodyard along the journey through this tale of love blossoming – I’d imagine the vibrant radiant spark of Luanne’s voice will be more than enough to pull the people out there onboard for this adventure, but it’s always nice to know she’s backed up by quality musicianship too right?  Believe me, she’s got plenty surrounding her, and they deliver on this song’s intended charm.

Major kudos to Luanne for the exceptional performance she brings to the highlight moments of “Two Angels Fly” – she’s right on the money for the entire song, but the biggest demands on her vocals bring out the best of what’s she’s got in her technique & tone on this tune.  Overall, I ain’t gonna lie to ya – it’s probably more of a dive into the Adult Contemporary realm than you’ll ever find me admitting that I’m comfortable with, but as I always tell ya, good music is exactly that – and she deserves serious credit for how well “Two Angels Fly” comes out.  I like that that are really bold & dramatic aspects in the design of this song that get revealed in the transition to the bridge…I dig the distance in the vocals as Luanne comes back to the hooks for the finale as well…and I love how strong she finishes this song, 100%.  It’s a real moment y’all…one of those holy-crow-she-just-DID-THAT spots in a song that would make anyone turn their head to find out more about what they heard & where it all came from.  Pure Luanne Hunt my friends…that’s what I’m tellin’ ya – she’s got fantastic music supporting here that sparkles & shines, and digs in deeper when it’s called for, there’s no doubt about that – but it’s her vocals & words that steal the show this time around.  There’s no doubt that “Two Angels Fly” isn’t going to be the happiest song you’re going to hear this year – it deals with some pretty tough stuff & justifiably despairing emotions – but all that being said, you’ll find that the beauty in this song’s intentions are on full display at all times.

It took me a while to figure out what the vibe & atmosphere of “Midnight Rain & Roses” reminded me of…it seemed so familiar somehow…so distinct.  It’s actually the Around The Sun album by R.E.M. – I’m sure that’s one of the oddest comparisons that she might get to this particular tune…all I can say in my defense is have a listen to the record and tell me you don’t hear a whole bunch of valid similarities!  From the curious mood of the music, to the storyteller-style of Luanne’s songwriting, to the way the instrumentation & flow of the song moves…I’m just sayin’ y’all, a track like “Midnight Rain & Roses” would have fit right into the lineup of an album like Around The Sun without an eyebrow being raised.  Now…obviously that has a major advantage in reaching the ears of yours truly listening over here, with R.E.M. being one of my two favorite bands & all…but credit where credit is due, Luanne’s created an entirely compelling tale of love & loss here.  Heartbreaking stuff when it comes right down to it – and a story laced with stunning details and inspiring storylines that highlight how short life can be and how crucial it is we use our time as sincerely as possible.  There’s a lot of craft in a song like “Midnight Rain & Roses” – writing-wise, it’s among some of my favorites from Luanne’s catalog for sure, and I think she & her crew of musical co-horts ended up really tapping right into the depths of emotions at the core of this cut.  Memorable…that’s the word I’d use to describe “Midnight Rain & Roses” – it’s kind of got that Tom Petty-esque approach to the writing, structure…even the sound at points…but you could probably cite something like the smoldering sound of the Cowboy Junkies too & that would also be fair.  Essentially, Luanne’s got a real crossover with “Midnight Rain & Roses,” and a captivating story at the heart of it all.

She’s got a genuinely special tune on her hands with “The Butterfly Effect,” which according to what I’ve read, is the only track on her new record that she didn’t write – this song was originally by Greg Matthews & Bill O’Hanlon.  Word on the street is that she was watching a set being played by Matthews live in Nashville, and Luanne immediately fell in love with this tune…and it won’t take more than a mere spin through it once to fully grasp exactly why that is.  The writing is superb, and Luanne got right to the heart of this cover without question…the moment you start to feel the melody shift just prior to the first minute is sensational, and the chorus coming right behind it is a truly mesmerizing moment.  A song like “The Butterfly Effect” is full proof of just how well Hunt knows exactly what she’s capable of and how much she can bring to a tune…it’s all well & good to cover a cut we like, but it’s another thing all together when you’re able to recognize that you can personally give a song that special something that’ll make it work, 100% – and I’d assume she knew she was a perfect fit for this track going into it.  I say that because it’s one of my favorite vocal performances from her, all-around, to-date.  Professionally, she’s made an exceptionally great call here – “The Butterfly Effect” is stunningly well-suited to Luanne’s strengths, a brilliantly written song with mesmerizing melody, and executed to pure audio perfection.  She’s done an incredible job with her originals throughout this whole record, but she proves with “The Butterfly Effect” that her talents reach even further, and expand with a gift to bring something special to another’s work.  Let’s just put it this way…I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find this single-worthy tune already had a video and was released in advance of Portraits In Song…from the writing to the performance, the balance of strengths is impeccable once again, and revealed in a mix of delicate sound & strong feelings.  “The Butterfly Effect” is a genuinely beautiful moment on this new album from Luanne; I love this cover.

I’m gonna vote “Cooked” as the real unsung hero in this experience though…and that’s with me not even fully sure just how much of an impact this song will go onto make.  First & foremost, this is a straight-up stellar tune, and a real departure in terms of style/sound for Hunt herself…she’s trying out new things on “Cooked” and built this track on real, relatable feelings that a ton of you will connect with.  If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been in a relationship or situation too long, where you didn’t realize the damage was being done before it was nearly too late…and you were somehow pulled back from the ledge before going right over it forever…you’ll find a ton to appreciate about “Cooked.”  Part of me is more than inclined to say that, so much of “Cooked” stands out to me for its many differences and unapologetic directness…there’s just a ton here that would make this track qualify as a single in so many significant ways.  It’s more subtle than you’d find most singles to be…and perhaps that’s the only reason I’m hesitating on simply backing “Cooked” as THE choice…all I can tell ya for certain is that she’s onto something really cool, really special, and really unique with this track that no other song seems to have.  Full proof of her tremendous versatility…I love the depth in the theme of this song, I love the difference it possesses in style & sound…I’ve really got nothing but love for “Cooked” – Luanne got all of this song and delivers one of the best performances I’ve personally heard from her to-date so far.  Which…if you’ve read this review and/or her history in music, you know that’s more than sayin’ something!  I suppose it’s part surprise, part great writing – this is the kind of song I’d say I didn’t expect out of Luanne Hunt’s music when it comes to its composition & sound, and she is THRIVING inside this artistic design.

The range of emotions on Portraits In Song is completely tangible.  Not only do you get moments like you’ll find towards the beginning that are built of pure love & joy – but you’ll go straight to the other side of the spectrum with Luanne and explore some pretty damn devastating themes as well, which she’ll further prove on “Ain’t No Way To Win In Dixie,” just as much as she has on tracks like “Two Angels Fly” or “Cooked” mere moments before.  Devastating doesn’t always come along with some kind of brutal sound though folks – no.  Sometimes you find the toughest emotions are displayed in music through the most delicate means…a lot of Luanne’s material would have a passerby thinking they were listening to another sweet song on the radio if they didn’t really sit down to hear & consider the words.  “Ain’t No Way To Win In Dixie” is a cut that comes along with a lot of self-awareness & self-realization – an understanding of what you’ve been through by examining it all clearly from the other side of it all; and ultimately, you don’t end up with a song like this without having come out stronger from the whole experience.  “I hope this Dixie girl is gonna be alright” as she’ll tell ya herself – she’s got me believing that she will be A-OK based on all I’ve heard throughout this record…Portraits In Song is boldly personal and direct in so many powerful ways, even with all its tender melodies & vibes goin’ on.  The piano-led “Ain’t No Way To Win In Dixie” is a perfect example of how such a low-key melody & moment can make a resounding & memorable impact on ya…this is another magnificent highlight in her songwriting…you feel the weight of the heavy emotions shrouding Luanne’s spirit on this track without question.  She’s working with a hard-but-relatable theme here for sure…I think a great many of you have likely stayed in a situation or a place where you shouldn’t have for far too long – I know I have.  From the clarity you find on the other side of it all, you end up wiser, stronger, and more secure in the aftermath for sure.  Luanne wouldn’t be able to make a song like “Ain’t No Way To Win In Dixie” work if she wasn’t still able to tap right into those tough feelings and emotions, and certainly wouldn’t be able to create a track as subtly powerful and empowering as this is without having come through it all, stronger than ever.  As a result of the fact that she has indeed survived & thrived, you get songs like this, that boldly examine all of what occurred and what her experience was really like on the inside the entire time.  It’s another cut that will take you right into the heart of some extremely rocky emotional terrain for sure, but that’s just the thing – it’s still loaded with heart, sincerity, and unfiltered realness.  It’s not a happy tune by any measure really – and I’m just fine with that – when it sounds as good as this track, who would complain?

Adding in a bit more of a Rock element & religious connotations into the final song, “He Played His Music” – I’d say there’s a whole lotta information in this particular track that might very well give you more insight into Luanne’s story than any other.  Don’t go quoting me on that – it’s just a theory that I’m working with…but if you listen to her words & story up close here, and consider all that she’s been through in order to be where she is now & the emotional journey she’s been on…”He Played His Music” sounds like it could include many details from the experience.  At least a little perhaps…I think there are probably a couple of ways that you could take “He Played His Music” in either applying it to the themes we’ve heard throughout the record, or in tying it to the religious aspect in the songwriting…I suppose it all comes down to the set of ears listening on the other end & how we examine a track like this as we listen…or album for that matter.  Luanne’s given us plenty to think about throughout the lineup of songs on her latest record…she might dive into some tough subject matter along the way, but again, it’s the fact that she CAN with such sincerity & precision that tells you she’s come out stronger as a result of having been through all she has.  Stylistically…I think for me personally, I found I got the most out of the mid-section…between tracks four & seven, I felt like Luanne revealed some of her undeniable best.  “He Played His Music” gives you a quality ending, even if I might not have quite felt it fully had the same magic as the previous four songs before it, I’m still far from complaining about the exceptional results she’s so confidently putting out here.  Maybe that’s the thing that has me so onboard and cheering for her as hard as I am…when you listen to her words on “He Played His Music,” and in so many of the tracks on Portraits In Song…you’d almost be surprised she was able to come out sounding so inspired.  That’s the real beauty of art, music, and life combined though folks…that’s turning tragedy into triumph and finding a way through the pain to the joy on the other side – and Luanne certainly deserves the happiness she’s discovered in the process.  A wonderful lady with a beautiful heart, tons of talent, and professionalism anyone out there can hear – she’s made a powerfully insightful, personally revealing record to be proud of with this new album all-around, and proven just how fearless she is as an artist.

Her new album Portraits In Song arrives officially this February 1st online – until that magical moment arrives, make sure to find out more about Luanne Hunt from her official website at:

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