A year has passed since the release of Carly Pearce’s self-titled album, the follow-up to 2017’s ‘Every Little Thing’, and what a year it’s been for her. Putting the global pandemic to one side, Pearce experienced a year filled with heartache, pain and success. Already dealing with the loss of Busbee, the producer that she’d worked with on both of her albums, Pearce saw her seemingly perfect marriage to fellow Country singer Michael Ray end in divorce after eight months. Whilst dealing with that, her single ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ featuring Lee Brice became her second chart-topping Platinum single.
It comes as no surprise then that Pearce is ready (and perhaps keen) to move on from ‘Carly Pearce’ as she releases 7-track collection ‘29’ (read our interview to find out more about the songs). Led by current single ‘Next Girl’, the collection captures everything that Pearce has been through and it sees her taking a huge step towards that traditional Country music she’s always wanted to make. Inspired by female artists from the 90s, the songs on ‘29’ feel like Pearce at her most honest and authentic. Pearce has refused to publicly air her dirty laundry, preferring to let fans and listeners infer what happened in her marriage by listening to her lyrics.
If you strip away the sunny production of ‘Next Girl’, one of four songs co-written with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, and concentrate solely on the lyrics, you’ll soon realise what Pearce is getting at. Serving as a warning to the ‘next girl’, Pearce recalls all the tell-tale signs that she missed, passing them on to whoever takes her place. It’s a fierce track that sets the tone for a very personal and confessional collection of songs. ‘Should’ve Known Better’, an acoustic-led reflection on learning lessons the hard way, finds Pearce delivering a passionate and at times brutal lyric as she tells her ex that his behaviour means he’s going to miss out in the future.
Title track ‘29’ is reminiscent of ‘Wide Open Spaces’ era The Chicks and it’s the boldest song on here. Pearce lists the things that she should have been doing at the age of 29 before revealing what her experiences at that age really were. She sings frankly about getting married and divorced, dealing the heart-breaking blow ‘the year I was going to live it up, now I’m never going to live it down’.
‘Liability’ is the track that people are going to infer plenty from. Over a near bluesy Country beat, Pearce reprimands her ex suggesting that he cheated on her and tried to worm his way back into her life once she found out. Pearce has an edge in her voice, and it’s the sign of a woman who’s come to terms with the deceit and made her peace with the fact that her life has had to move on.
The regret-filled ‘Messy’ finds Pearce trying to figure out how to move on from her marriage by drowning herself in wine and sending texts she regrets the next day. The lyrics are honest and anyone who’s been through a break-up will find comfort in Pearce’s experience. ‘Show Me Around’, the emotional centrepiece of the release, is an emotional tribute to Busbee where Pearce paints a picture of the late producer preparing heaven for his loved ones so he can show them around once they get there. It’s impossible to listen to this song without getting emotional, and Pearce’s vocal is stunning.
‘29’ comes to a close with ‘Day One’, the fourth track written with McAnally and Osborne, which also features a co-writer credit for Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey. Pearce uses the song as therapy as she recounts the grief process she went through following her marriage falling apart. There’s a defiant strength that runs through the song as Pearce acknowledges that the damage from the marriage will take its toll for a long time to come.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of Pearce from the beginning. With every release she gets better and better. ‘Carly Pearce’ was one of my records of 2020 and somehow on ‘29’ she manages to wow even more. When she’s at her most honest, Pearce soars and it’s her relatable lyrics that have really resonated with fans. ‘29’ was no doubt a painful project to record and pull together, but it’s a stunning collection from an artist at the very top of her game.
Track list: 1. Next Girl 2. Should’ve Known Better 3. 29 4. Liability 5. Messy 6. Show Me Around 7. Day One Record label: Big Machine Release date: 19th February 2021 Buy ‘29’ now