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Lainey Wilson – ‘Bell Bottom Country’ Review

We’ve been #TeamLainey since 2018 when she made her UK debut in London during Country Music week in the October of that year. Her honesty, her wry humour and her musical talent were obvious from the get-go so it’s been a pleasure being in her corner these past four years and watching the achievements begin to pile up. Number one songs, debut albums, tours and industry accolades have been the order of the day and it will almost feel like a full circle moment when she takes the main stage in London again at next year’s C2C festival in March with ‘Bell Bottom Country’ as part of her armoury.

‘Bell Bottom Country’ is more than just Wilson’s second major label album. It’s a manifesto and a state of mind, if you will, that encapsulates Wilson’s lineage, her intentions and musical style. First, and foremost, it’s a statement about southern life – about values, about family, hard work, resilience and fun. There’s a hippy side to it and a Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll side too. There’s church on Sundays and the bar on Friday nights, but above all else ‘Bell Bottom Country’ is Wilson’s way of setting herself out from the crowds of aspiring singers and songwriters currently trying to make a name for themselves on Music Row. It’s original and intrinsically Wilson-esque. She owns the name (we hope!) and she owns the right to the space and the feelings in the same way that Ashley McBryde’s recent ‘Lindeville’ album is her own place and state of mind too.

Wilson’s personality is writ large across a number of songs on ‘Bell Bottom Country’, which is what makes this album so personal and original too. It opens with the double salvo of ‘Hillbilly Hippie’ and ‘Road Runner’. The former is a laid back, Sheryl Crow ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’ kind of song that builds to a bigger chorus underpinned by insistent drums and loud guitars. It’s the opening of her manifesto as she sings, ‘A little Mississippi, a whole lot of rolling stone.’ ‘Road Runner’, meanwhile, (beep beep) has swampy beginnings before it explodes into a southern rocker about ‘burning rubber on the Bridgestones.’ It goes on to reference tumbleweeds and a life out on the highway as you begin to see what Lainey’s world is really like.

Elsewhere, we get glimpses of Wilson’s heart, her family and her ‘Hard to Handle’ attitude. ‘Heart Like a Truck’ is a mid-tempo ballad about restlessness, resilience and movement. She paints herself, unapologetically as messy but worth the effort! ‘….Truck’ showcases the default duality of Wilson’s vocals, which are both fragile and yet inherently strong. ‘Those Boots’, meanwhile, is an ode to her father, which is fitting and timely given his recent health issues. One of the best songs on the album, ‘Those Boots’ is a simple, Texan-tinged song that hits you where it needs to every single time and yet still makes you want to sing along or dance around the kitchen too. That personal touch continues on ‘You, Me and Jesus’ which sees Wilson singing about her nature again and how only the guy in the song and Jesus really understand her. ‘You just take me for who I am,’ she sings on this atmospheric track that is going to slay in writer’s rounds or in smaller venues.

If it’s atmosphere you are looking for in your music look no further than ‘Watermelon Moonshine’ and ‘Weak-End’. Both of these are quieter, tender songs in which Wilson exposes real, raw emotions. ‘….Moonshine’ is an engaging tale of first drinks, first loves and first times. It’s a unique, original song that has a wistful fragility to it as she links the first time she makes love to the drink both kids were drinking to give them some courage. It mirrors the experiences of many people as she sings about two 18 year olds playing at being adults who think ‘the high will last forever.’ ‘Weak-End’, meanwhile, is a tender ballad about regret and loneliness. It’s a clever, relatable song that explores the places people will go to to avoid feeling lonely. It’s grown up, mature and speaks volumes about where Wilson could go as a writer as her own career and life develop in the years ahead. ‘Atta Girl’, similarly, is an exercise is class writing with Wilson in full ‘big sister’ mode, imparting wisdom and messages of empowerment and resilience to broken hearted women everywhere in a slick, classy, mature way.

‘Bell Bottom Country’ is also about having a bunch of fun too. ‘Hold My Halo’ is a banjo & guitar driven southern rocker and the album’s main drinking song. Wilson puts her troubles aside to ‘tear up this town like a drunk tornado’. Strong, fierce vocals and a huge chorus will make this song a staple in her live set for years to come. ‘This One’s Gonna Cost Me’, meanwhile, might well be ‘….Halo”s sister song as Wilson ruminates on the after-effects of booze, men and nights out on a loud, dirty, raucous number that includes some searing guitars and serious Joan Jett-style vocals! Throw ‘Grease’ into the mix and we are cooking with gas, as Wilson says, during this segment of ‘Bell Bottom Country’. Country music is often inherently unsexy – when Jason Aldean’s ‘Burnin It Down’ and Garth Brooks’ ‘That Summer’ are considered to be leading examples of sexy Country music you know the genre is scraping the (bell) bottom of the barrel! On ‘Grease’, however, Wilson turns the heat up and brings the lust in a way that seems natural. ‘Got me saying hallelujah,’ she sings, ‘like a good old girl is supposed to do.’ Part Bruno Mars funk, part Maroon 5 Rock, ‘Grease’ is destined to get people hot and bothered for many years to come. Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

The album opens with a double salvo of statement songs and it closes down in exactly the same way. ‘Live Off’ and (my personal favourite song) ‘Wildflowers and Wild Horses’ really encapsulate what ‘Bell Bottom Country’ is all about. The former speaks to small towns, heritage, hard work, families, swapping stories around the fire, damn good Country songs and the love of a good man. It’s an anthemic song with a whole load of soul whilst ‘Wildflowers and Wild Horses’ begins in a place that is all Western vibes, cowboys and saloon doors before sliding into a verse that could be lifted from Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ or Blake Shelton’s God’s Country’. A galloping chorus arrives as Wilson sings about being ‘barefoot on bareback and born tough as nails.’ What a song this is going to be live! There’s the potential for a real legacy song here, one that will live with her down the line for years to come. ‘I push like a daisy through old sidewalk cracks,’ Wilson exclaims, bringing the ‘Bell Bottom Country’ manifesto to an end as she urges you to climb onboard alongside her for what is sure to be an interesting ride.

Throw in a cracking cover of Four Non-Blondes’ iconic hit ‘What’s Up (What’s Going On?)’ which sounds like it’s always been a Country song and you’ve got one of the year’s best albums. ‘Bell Bottom Country’ is a personal exploration of what it means to be Lainey Wilson. It’s raw in places and there are some hard messages and hard emotions on display at times but isn’t that what great Country music is supposed to be? Who cares ‘what’ ‘Bell Bottom Country’ is? Just enjoy the mix of Country (with flare), Rock, Soul and southern charm that Wilson has on display here. It’ll make you sing, dance and play air guitar but it will also make you think and more importantly, it’ll make you feel, too. What a grown-up, mature and thoughtful record from an artist still, relatively, at the start of their career. It’s the very anti-thesis to the ‘Cookie Cutter Country’ music that plagues a lot of the radio airwaves and charts these days. On ‘Bell Bottom Country’, Lainey Wilson has created something both unique and deeply personal that will also entertain the masses on both a Friday night and a Sunday morning and for that she needs to be cherished, nurtured an applauded.

Track List: 1. Hillbilly Hippie 2. Road Runner 3. Watermelon Moonshine 4. Grease 5. Weak-End 6. Me, You and Jesus 7. Hold My Halo 8. Heart Like a Truck 9. Atta Girl 10. This One’s Gonna Cost Me 11. Those Boots 12. Live Off 13. Wildflowers and Wild Horses 14. What’s Up (What’s Going On?) Record Label: BBR Music Group/Broken Bow Records Release Date: 28th October Buy ‘Bell Bottom Country’ now

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