‘Tuned In’ review: Stephen Lynch pairs sharp wit with sharpened music

Stephen Lynch's 'Lion'

Stephen Lynch's "Lion"

Stephen Lynch is a genuine double threat as a performer: comedian and musician. He’s still largely regarded as a comic who sings and plays guitar, but his new ‘Lion’ shows expanded commitment and growth in the musical arena for Lynch, who recorded the release in Nashville with a full roster of supporting talent. The result is a folkie, Americana sound that could easily stand apart from the droll lyrics as it breezes along with the likes of piano, banjo, mandolin, organ, cello and occasional dueting vocals from Courtney Jaye.

And Lynch literally doubles down with the release, complementing the 13-track studio album with a live recording of the songs made during his July appearance at Manhattan’s Symphony Space.

Regardless of the impressive melodiousness, ‘Lion’ is way better with the humor.

Ironically, the funniest cut on the Nashville-made album is ‘Tennessee,’ an extended jab at the Volunteer State. Singing against an acoustic-ballad backdrop, Lynch notes that the state is, ‘Where the whisky flows like wine, and the meth labs are divine’ and also, ‘Where the children can spell ‘KKK’/But cannot spell ‘Tennessee’.’ He even works in the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. and Elvis Presley both died in Tennessee.

That’s typical of Lynch’s anti-PC style, which manifests itself elsewhere on ‘Lion’ with songs that mock tattoos, vegetarians, erectile dysfunction and fans of hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. Also, a conversion to Christianity by a girlfriend prompts ‘Too Jesusy’: ‘You and me plus Jesus makes three, and that’s too Jesusy for me.’

Sweet-sounding duets with Jaye add a new dimension to Lynch’s work: On ‘The Night I Laid You Down,’ the two reminisce about their first time with each other and subsequently get into an escalating fight about what song was playing, and on ‘You’ll Do’ they pose as two lonely singles at a bar after last call, with Lynch singing, ‘Your face is not so bad if I kinda squint my eyes.’

He’s been a great comedian for a long time, yet at this point Lynch clearly could make a good, serious music album.

Still, here’s hoping he keeps it funny.

Rating: 4stars (out of five)

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