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Hailey Whitters Raised (CD)

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(Big Loud Records) 17 tracks Though Hailey Whitters now lives in Nashville, her idea of country... more

Hailey Whitters: Raised (CD)

(Big Loud Records) 17 tracks

Though Hailey Whitters now lives in Nashville, her idea of country is the Midwest - with its grassy fields and farmers, warm beer and whiskey, apple pie and porch lights. After the resounding success of her forward-thinking 2020 debut, The Dream, she was able to take stock of how far she'd come from her humble beginnings in Shueyville, Iowa, population 731.

The result is her sophomore album, Raised, a generous and outspoken celebration of growing up in a big family in a small town that establishes Whitters as a true country songwriter of distinction.

With her soulful voice that can shift between plaintive and sassy, tenderness and twang, she covers a lot of ground while keeping her focus hyperlocal (the album ends with Ad Astra Per Alas Porci, translated as to the stars on the wings of a pig). It's clear that this is an old-school album, with thoughtful sequencing, preludes and interludes, and even a snippet of spoken word.

The title track - a wistful reminder of how Whitters' upbringing shaped her heart - is also the lead, immediately setting the theme. With pedal steel and evocative details like pampas grass, Sunday dresses and a little dirt don't hurt, the song is both a tribute to place and a commitment to the long haul.

Pride of place means self-respect, and Whitters does double duty on Everything She Ain't, the sassy lead single she released earlier this year: she's a woman for all occasions and a unique find. With handclaps, fiddle and banjo, Whitters and her co-writers Bryan Simpson and Ryan Tyndell's clever wordplay and deft phrasing surpass various tropes: Honey there's plenty of fish in the sea / But if you take a second look / you'll see there's only one of me.

It's Whitters' attention to detail and her willingness to embrace contradictions that give her songs weight. Listening to Middle of America inevitably brings to mind another ode to the American heartland, John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" (also a small-town artist, though not as small as Whitters), especially when accompanied by the vocals of American Aquarium's BJ Barham. It's a well-done duet, with Whitters balancing her opposing musings in her witty one-liners: between going nowhere and going crazy / raising hell and raising babies.

In short, Raised is full of Whitters' heart, nowhere more so than Big Family. With his husbands and cousins, ex-wives and living room preachers, Whitters sings about the invaluable lessons you only learn when you learn to live with others, even when it's messy. It's a welcome tonic at a time when families are often more divided than not.

Even as Whitters on Raised plants her feet ever more firmly on the ground and views her ordinary origins through the lens of success, her music reaches for the stars.

Article properties: Hailey Whitters: Raised (CD)

Whitters, Hailey - Raised (CD) CD 1
01 Ad Astra Per Alas Porci Hailey Whitters
02 Raised Hailey Whitters
03 Everything She Ain’t Hailey Whitters
04 Big Family Hailey Whitters
05 Middle America ft American Aquarium Hailey Whitters
06 Plain Jane Hailey Whitters
07 College Town Hailey Whitters
08 Interlude Hailey Whitters
09 Boys Back Home Hailey Whitters
10 Everybody Oughta Hailey Whitters
11 Pretty Boy Hailey Whitters
12 The Neon Hailey Whitters
13 The Grassman Hailey Whitters
14 Our Grass Is Legal Hailey Whitters
15 Beer Tastes Better Hailey Whitters
16 In a Field Somewhere Hailey Whitters
17 Ad Astra Per Alas Porci (Reprise) Hailey Whitters
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Tracklist
Whitters, Hailey - Raised (CD) CD 1
01 Ad Astra Per Alas Porci
02 Raised
03 Everything She Ain’t
04 Big Family
05 Middle America ft American Aquarium
06 Plain Jane
07 College Town
08 Interlude
09 Boys Back Home
10 Everybody Oughta
11 Pretty Boy
12 The Neon
13 The Grassman
14 Our Grass Is Legal
15 Beer Tastes Better
16 In a Field Somewhere
17 Ad Astra Per Alas Porci (Reprise)