Valentine's Day was a special day for Carly Pearce, a first with husband Michael Ray but also because her second album, a self-titled record came out to positive reviews and sales figures. I was keen to get my hands on the record after featuring a couple of the singles on my radio show when they first came out. I wondered if the release date reflected the content and if lyrically and melodically it could stand up alongside her first record which had really impressed me at the time. Well read on to get my thoughts on the full album.
The album starts with a familiar number, the first single off the record Closer To You written by big Nashville hitters Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsey and Troy Verges introduces us to the latest body of work from Carly Pearce. It's an upbeat, care free number with melodies that are like ear worms, you'll be humming this one all day and if the rest of the album is anything like Closer to You, we know why it dropped on Valentine's Day! Call Me, track two, keeps up this upbeat and carefree style. The production is different, the electric guitar is a prominent feature and the rhythm has a summery feel to it. Written by the great late Busbee who also produced the entire album, Emily Shackleton and Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town, it feels like a slight departure of what we know from Carly, but I like it! The second single released off this album faired better on the charts than the first and it appears third on the track list. It's a duet with Lee Brice called I Hope You're Happy Now. Their voices blend so well together and I hope this isn't the last we hear of them singing together. Again some really interesting writers on this track, Carly herself teams up with Jonathan Singleton, Randy Montana and perhaps the most current artist in Country right now, Luke Combs!
Track 4 is the most stripped back song we have heard so far on this record. Dashboard Jesus really goes back to it's Country roots with it's storytelling lyrics, acoustic guitar, banjo and lap steel featuring heavily in the production, thus far it's my favourite on the record. When I saw Halfway Home I thought perhaps it was a cover of the Lori McKenna song but no it's another well written country song which shares that title. Written by Carly, Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins has a clever play on words in the chorus. The melodies in this again are strong though quite simple, there is room for Carly's beautiful vocals to soar over sustained notes. Heart's Going out of Its Mind is next up, it's another catchy number with fast rhythmical lyrics in the chorus. Apparently it's written about husband Michael Ray. Again Carly has co-written this with Joe Ginsberg and Laura Veltz - a writer that features a lot on this record. Talking about Husband Michael Ray, track 7 is a duet between the two, Finish Your Sentences, has some very clever lyrics and arrangements particularly in the verses. It's a beautiful love song between the two and there's some interesting writers on this too, Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure, Kelsey Ballerini and Thomas Rhett. It's like Country music really came together for this album!
Carly Pearce teams up with another couple of great writers for this next ballad, Sam Ellis and Natalie Hemby. It Won't Always Be Like This talks of living in the moment and treasuring those you're close to in the first verse and chorus, it's flipped on it's head in verse two as it discusses the protagonists struggles and watching everyone else succeed around you. Carly's vocals really shine in Lightning in a Bottle, the romantic number is written by an upcoming singer-songwriter I've been keeping an eye on, Hannah Ellis, it's great for her to have a cut on this great album. Shane McAnally teams with Trevor Rosen and Sara Haze for Love Has No Heart, the song in 6/8 time is perhaps the biggest tear jerker on the album, of course with Shane having a hand in the composition the lyrics are on top form and Carly really brings the emotion to life. Woman Down is another feisty number written by Shane, Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins focussing on the concept of strong, independent women. Carly is very good at singing fast, almost rapping the lyrics out in the chorus. It's a big number.
The album's penultimate song, You Kissed Me First goes back to the light hearted love scene that the majority of the album paints. It reminds me of early Taylor Swift and the sweeping sound of the lap or pedal steel is perfect! The album finishes with Greener Grass, a sombre song, reminiscing old times. There's a fantastic guitar solo in the middle. I feel it's a strange way to end the record, a record which throughout the majority has been a record set very much in the present with a bubbly and positive attitude so it feels rather unsettling to conclude with a song which wishes to go back almost. However as a stand alone track it's full of nostalgia and strong lyrics with an equally complimentary production.
The record encapsulates and reflects Carly's life in recent times, the joy of succeeding both in her career and in love. The thing I love most about this record is it's all about the music, the best collection of songs has been put together regardless of wether Carly has had a hand in writing that particular tune or not, it has brought an entire generation of Country writers and artists together to make this album a success which I believe is truly special. This is an album which is progressive in its take on Country music but gives Carly a unique voice within the genre.