On ‘Love and Lightning,’ Erin Condo ditches the pity for dance party

Erin Condo will host a release performance promoting her new CD “Love and Lightning” on April 11 in Millheim.
Erin Condo will host a release performance promoting her new CD “Love and Lightning” on April 11 in Millheim. Photo provided

For Erin Condo, there were two rules when recording her first album in 10 years: Dance more and cry less.

Fans who were waiting for Condo’s first new material since 2004’s “Leaving Songs” may be in for a surprise. For her new album, “Love and Lightning,” the singer-songwriter dumped the gloomy country ballads of her youth and picked up a desire to get people on the dance floor.

“As someone who has to perform the country songs,” Condo said, “they are a bit of a downer.”

She said she wanted to go electric. The result was an alternative-country record with an edge — but it does not stop there.

The record’s opener, “New Regular,” kicks off with a driving beat and a horn section. It is more soul than country and it sets the stage for the album’s fun unpredictability.

“I’ve been playing (“New Regular”) for years as a folky, slower song,” Condo said. “I always joke that it was in the folk graveyard, but “Wiggus” brought it back from the grave.”

“Wiggus” is guitarist Bill Wilgus, who produced “Love and Lightning.” With 10 years of material to work with, he dug up several gems that Condo had long forgotten and injected new life into them.

He also worked on tunes that Condo recorded while she was living in Austin, Texas. Condo said songs like “Trouble” and “New Regular” were the first tracks she wrote after moving to Austin. She said they initially had the “lonely, sitting in my apartment by myself” feel.

“Things were really good in Austin and sometimes really difficult,” Condo said. “I had this hope that I was going to make things happen.”

After bouncing around, Condo ended up making things happen back in central Pennsylvania. She got married, had two kids, converted a historic Millheim bar into a new event space and, most importantly, continued to make music.

Much like her new songs, Condo found new life back in Happy Valley. She reconnected with Wilgus, who collaborated with her on the first record, and enlisted the rest of the Hoofties — Kevin Lowe on drums and John Kennedy on bass — to create the eccentric backdrop for her songs.

“Lightning” is full of detailed scenarios and conflicted characters in which she gives life to fictional personalities while getting people to dance.

“That first album was so personal and ‘woe is me.’ On this album, I am branching out and writing other people’s stories,” Condo said.