It’s fair to say that anyone who has got as far as releasing their 22nd album knows what they are doing. Even without such an extensive back catalogue, artists should be free to explore any genre, sound or style. Playing to audience preconceptions and expectations is not a healthy pastime at the best of times, but at least with so much music already in the rearview mirror, a bit of generic off-roading or exploration for the sake of it, or even music made for purposes of self-satisfaction (always the best) is to be expected. Nay, essential.

And all of this is true of the latest album from Luanne Hunt. Despite its perhaps downbeat, titular connotations and an often serious subject matter, it is a collection containing some of the most genuinely infectious and irresistible music of her career.

The generic off-roading comes with her moving away slightly from her trademark folk and country sounds and heading into the musical heartland of the likes of Sinatra, Bennet and Fitzgerald. Most people wishing to explore such golden and sacred sonic realms would take the easy route and record a collection of standards. Luanne Hunt is astute enough to understand that there is little point in taking that route; after all, why mess with perfection? Sensibly she opted to make music in that style but which is also original. Music that would feel at home in such an era but yet is equally at home in her original repertoire. The best of both worlds. And Life Ain’t No Picnic is precisely that!

Kicking off with the sassy I’ll See You In My New Year’s Dreams, and you realise how much of a time machine music can be. Here, we are transported to a 50’s uptown glamour spot, supper club – martinis are being sipped, and the fashion is sleek and timeless, the band are on form, and the music is the perfect balance between singalong and seductive, the soundtrack to a time where music served a more straightforward, more honest purpose.

That’s How You Know He’s A Hero sits between a musical theatre narrative and an anthemic national treasure of a song, Love forgives gets you right there (points to heart) and How The Curtains Blow is hazy, honest and heartfelt.

It’s an album that works well. Less a pastiche of the 50’s clubland sound, which is what we are used to being offered, and more music in the style of but with enough room for the artist’s personality and purpose to be in the musical driving seat. It is easy to attempt such a blend of then and now, this genre and that, the what was and the what is to be, and get it wrong. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those times. Not by a long shot!

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