By Holly Smith
Video game-style synths, corded phones, grungey bedroom guitars and talk of Scorpio rising all collide on an album that is a confident step away from her previous Americana sound.
1. I’m Sorry
2. Only Nice When I’m High
3. People Talk
4. It’s You
5. Looking For Trouble
6. Nobody But Me
8. Family Tree
There’s something of the 80s kid-90s teen about Whiskey Gentry frontwoman Lauren Morrow’s first solo full-length record. Video game-style synths, corded phones, grungey bedroom guitars and talk of Scorpio rising all collide on an album that is a confident step away from her previous Americana sound.
Its beginning revels in its own moodiness, relying on atmosphere to say what can sometimes be said without lyrical flourish: on the opening track it’s a simple "I’m Sorry", the lyrical sparseness allowing her to really stretch out the quivering vibrato in her voice, drawing comparison with her contemporaries like Amanda Shires.
Over the next nine tracks, that quiver floats us across songs that she’s described as “truly reflecting who I am as a person and the sounds I’ve been waiting to explore for my entire career”.
The self-reflective and textured 'Only Nice When I’m High', with its sneaky under thread of banjo, belongs on a 90s film soundtrack. When the infectious disco groove drops on the title track, you’ll even hear an unlikely doppelganger in Sophie Ellis-Bextor, while the Whiskey Gentry standard, 'Looking for Trouble', also finds its place. Here it’s slower, stripped back and more ominous, its slow thumping beat matching the misdeeds it invites.
A showcase for Lauren’s influences outside country this may be, she’s not afraid to lean into those storytelling roots on the second half of the album, where a crop of fleshed-out characters and stories enter stage left.
Such narratives thrive through the roaring 'Hustle', where she revels in her role as her own boss (“but that’s the cost of being my own boss / and don’t you know I love it?), the morose ballad 'Leona' and the gorgeous 'Family Tree', which Lauren wrote after realising she was descended from the wife of Robert the Bruce, Lizzy. With its bluesy guitar and mournful pedal steel, it’s a fitting celebration and commiseration of the inescapability of our own DNA and how it shapes us throughout our lives.
As challenging as it may be to step away from an established project, Lauren Morrow has honed the art of simultaneously looking both backwards at the sounds that have shaped her and forwards at what shapes her sound. To quote Jay Z, as she does on 'Hustle', “it ain’t where I’ve been, it’s where I’m about to go”.
7.5 / 10
Lauren Morrow's 2023 album, People Talk, is released March 31st via Big Kitty Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
For all the release dates for country music albums in 2023, see below: