Editor’s note: From 2012 to 2014, Matt Rice wrote the music column Matt on Music for The Eastern Echo, the student newspaper for Eastern Michigan University. In 2016, Matt relaunched this column on The Young Folks. You can read past installments of this column here.
It can’t be stressed enough how great the 2010s have been for women in country. I’ve been writing about this since my 2013 review of Ashley Monroe’s Like a Rose, and it has yet to slow down. Last year alone, there were excellent records from Lori McKenna, Miranda Lambert, and Maren Morris, among several other good ones.
In the first few months of this year, there hasn’t been quite as much. But here are my thoughts on a few albums from relevant (and often very good) women in country.
Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (Thirty Tigers) Compared to a Miranda, a Kacey, a Brandy, or an Ashley, Sunny is an easy one to miss. She’s humble, incapable of being mistaken for a genius, and yet she is a spectacular artist in her own right. After 2014’s Provoked, so unassuming that I second-guessed my love of it when year-end-list season came about, she returns with any even stronger release. Assisted by Lori McKenna on three tracks, she comes up with a collection that makes Maren Morris look comparatively insignificant. Favorites: “Grow Old with Me,” one of McKenna’s absolute greatest, and “Why People Change,” which begins with the “Personality Crisis” riff. 8.5/10
Little Big Town: The Breaker (Capitol Nashville) No “Girl Crush” this time, despite a McKenna-penned opener and the top 40 hit “Better Man” (written by none other than Taylor Swift), and after last year’s fascinating attempt at sunshine pop Wanderlust, this is underwhelming from minute one. But if this is current mainstream country at its most middle-of-the-road, then it really is going through a renaissance. 7.5/10
Raelynn: WildHouse (Warner Bros.) I abhorred “God Made Girls,” hated Me, and then quite enjoyed “For a Boy.” With this one, I think I finally get it: she’s a lightweight, a singer of songs that do what they need to do and not a thing more. With something like “God Made Girls” or “Boyfriend,” the results were angering, and with “For a Boy,” they were charming in the most trivial sense. Her voice is distinctive, more innocent and kind than most, but it doesn’t have enough power to assist powerless songs. With that said, a decent portion of this debut—the Eric Church-esque rocker “Graveyard,” especially—is listenable. 7/10
Single of the Week — Kendrick Lamar: “Humble” (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) Like I was going to choose anything else? The best working artist is back, and body-positive.