Release Date: August 7th 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Let Me Go
- California Dreaming (feat. Sam Palladio)
- Counting On The Weather
- Rise And Shine
- Sand Paper
- Built This House
…I’ve been listening to Christian music ever since I was younger. I still do. It holds a special place in my heart as my faith has grown in leaps and bounds from listening to artists like Carman, Delirious?, Newsboys, Rebecca St. James, for KING & COUNTRY, Third Day, MercyMe, Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant and Michael W. Smith. But if you were to ask me which genre of music I’d listen to if Christian music ever were to disappear; I’d choose country music. In a heartbeat. Ever since I reviewed Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty, there’s been an upward trend of me being interested more and more in country music. I don’t know, there seems to be a realness and an authenticity and an honesty and a vulnerability that I can’t seem to find or pinpoint in the pop or rock mainstream music markets. I don’t know if you agree with me- maybe you do, but that’s just what I’ve found from observations. It also doesn’t do any harm when country music reviewer Grady Smith is continually releasing interesting videos about country music every few days or every week- listening to his takes on the latest and most inspiring in country music, actually gets me excited for country music. Wow, I never would imagine me saying that aloud even a year ago! However, with me reviewing Gabby Barrett’s Goldmine, Kelsea Ballerini’s kelsea, Lindsay Ell’s heart theory, Lauren Alaina’s Getting Good EP, and Maren Morris’ GIRL, as well as blogging about Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Hunter Hayes, Jana Kramer, Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett and Lindsay Ell all within the last year (with more and more country artists to be discussed and blogged about in the future!); the evidence is clear.
I’m a fan of country music, and now there’s no shame in me saying that. Now within the last couple of years or so, there have been some pretty decent and inspiring new and up-and-coming artists entering into the country genre (or at least solidifying their own mark!) and wowing and inspiring us all with their heartfelt lyrics and thought-provoking melodies. Russell Dickerson, RaeLynn, Maddie & Tae, Runaway June, Tenille Townes, Tenille Arts, Jimmie Allen, King Calaway, Luke Coombs, Brett Young, Chris Lane, even Cassadee Pope is coming more into her own of late; as well as more coverage for the aforementioned Lindsay Ell, Gabby Barrett, not to mention Florida Georgia Line still killing it, and breaking new ground by recording a worship album with CCM legend Chris Tomlin. Stalwarts like Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Lady A (fka Lady Antebellum) and Carrie Underwood are still going strong even though there is a Rascal Flatts sized hole in our hearts; while acts like Miranda Lambert, Dan + Shay, Thomas Rhett, Kane Brown, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini are the future (or is it present?) of country music! Both Keith Urban and Tim McGraw are releasing their new studio albums very soon, while Dolly Parton is dropping a Christmas album in October. Yet amidst all of this country news though, one new artist has come out of nowhere and has stolen the headlines with her vivacious passion and burning desire to create heartfelt music and music that means something to somebody…
Taken verbatim from my Caylee Hammack review from a few weeks ago- this sentiment still rings true here. Country music and me haven’t had the most seamless fit, however recently I’ve come to appreciate the genre more and more. I think outside of CCM, country is my favourite music genre- and you would never catch me saying this even a year ago. Oh how things change, don’t you reckon? Cassadee Pope’s acoustic album, her third full length project, cements my line of thinking that country music is one of the most heartfelt, inspiring, personal, honest and hopeful genres out there- and even though this isn’t a full ‘country’ album per se, there are moments here where we just need- as these lyrics minister to my soul and do help us in light of COVID-19. While Cassadee’s vocals aren’t the strongest compared to other heavyweights and up and coming artists in the country music market, it is the heartfelt nature and personal nature of these lyrics that have made me stand up to take notice. Rise And Shine isn’t perfect, not by a long shot; but I reckon it’s perfect for this occasion. It’s perfect for self reflection and it’s perfect for thinking about the big questions in life.
About “Let Me Go”: It’s a song that’s really about frustration and about how you can come to crossroads with someone that really doesn’t understand you, really doesn’t agree with what you want. It doesn’t coincide with what they want or even coincide with how they picture you. It’s talking about waiting for the other person to decide to let you go because you can’t let go of the hope that maybe things are going to change. And I’m a believer that if you want out and you’re not happy, just get out. Don’t wait for the other person to decide.
About “Hoodie”: It’s a song about taking a trip down memory lane. The boys that I’ve dated through the years have all been those emo boys with hoodies. I distinctly remember finding somebody’s hoodie and being really excited that I had a reason to reach out to them. It’s funny because we’re never discreet. We always think we are, but they know that it’s just a dumb excuse to get in touch. And whether you’re the receiver of that text or call or you’re the sender, you know what’s going on. I was really excited to get this song sounding the way it does, because it’s not that deep, and I wanted the music to replicate the levity of it and also the emo, pop-rock aspect of the time of my life that the song is talking about.
About “California Dreaming”: It’s been one of my favorites for a while, and my mom loves that song. I know it’s probably the most country song on the record, so I really wanted to lean into that, but not too far to where it didn’t work with the other songs. I was thinking about what would take the song up a notch. I definitely thought my boyfriend Sam Palladio’s beautiful blendy harmony voice would be perfect on it. The song’s about someone from my past that really hurt me and broke my heart, and I’m having the man that’s making me happy and that I’m in love with singing harmony on it. He does this harmony at the very end of the song that just gave me chills all over when he sang it. And that’s probably one of my favorite moments of the record, is when he goes into his falsetto voice and it just ends the song in a really sad, tensioned way.
About “Counting on the Weather”: That song, really, for me, is the coziest on the record. I wanted to make people feel like they’re wrapped in a blanket on a couch in front of a fire. The simple things in life are sometimes just the most beautiful, and that’s what the song talks about, just using an excuse like the weather to be with the person you love and just be together. It’s definitely the love song of the record. In this time that we’re in, where we can’t really go many places without feeling a little unsafe, I thought this was timely as well, just to try and find those moments of simplicity that we can lean into and enjoy being home together.
About “Hangover”: This is actually a Hey Monday song. It was on our last EP called Beneath It All. I wrote it with Butch Walker. This is by far the oldest song on the record. When I was thinking about doing this record with the intention of alluding to what I’m going to do full-band-wise later on, which is more pop-rock, I thought, ‘Well, what better way to do that than to put my old band song on here?’ I chose ‘Hangover’ because I always felt like it could be a country song, and it just held up over the years.
About “Rise and Shine”: A message that I really wanted to focus on for this record is mental health. Everybody is dealing with everything going on in the world differently. I’m very open and vocal about feelings and mental health, and I’ve been in therapy for probably three years now and just done a lot of inner work. I want people to feel safe going into a place of feeling whatever emotions they have inside, and I hope that ‘Rise and Shine’ is one of those songs that helps them get into that place of letting it out.
About “Sand Paper”: I remember really wanting to come up with a word that meant changing the shape or smoothing out people’s rough edges or whatever. I was having such a hard time. Nothing sounds good in a song that you try and use in that regard. I mean, you could use, like, a hammer or you could use a chainsaw or whatever. Then I came across sandpaper and it just felt so perfect. At that point, I just felt really like I wasn’t able to show my true colors and embrace the rough edges that I had naturally from my rock background. So I felt like sandpaper was the perfect usage to explain that.
About “Built This House”: In 2017, I just leveled my life, between personal and professional. I eliminated the people in my life that I felt weren’t working in my best interests, and also just got out of a relationship that I just wasn’t happy in and I didn’t feel like myself. That’s what the song talks about, about getting rid of the old one and building a new foundation. When I wrote the song, my boyfriend and I bought a house together. And this house really feels like me and it feels way more comfortable than I’ve ever felt in any other place. It just made me realize this physical house means a lot to me, but I have built a house in my heart and in my soul through that whole experience a few years ago. No matter what tries to shake me or what comes my way and what tries to level this house that I’ve built now, I have such a solid foundation that I’ve been able to tackle obstacles that I wouldn’t have had the strength to do before.
Cassadee’s acoustic album may not be your cup of tea. In all honesty, Cassadee’s voice isn’t the strongest, but the passion and the heart behind these songs, as evidenced from the behind the songs stories on Apple Music, is I reckon more than enough for you all to take the plunge to start listening to this EP. Also, I reckon the fact that it’s just the guitar and Cassadee’s vocals, makes this project more raw and intimate- which is good as we are allowed to see Cassadee’s vulnerability a bit more. For me, the standout songs on this project are “Let Me Go”, the title track, “Counting On the Weather”, “Built This House” and “Sand Paper”; as themes of identity, cherishing the ones you love, having a solid foundation that cannot be broken, and having the strength to get up and weather storms that you might originally think are the worst imaginable; are all present amongst these heartfelt and personal 8 songs, while Cassadee’s boyfriend Sam Palladio guests on a song on backing vocals. Musically, these songs aren’t special at all. But that’s not really the point, as I personally found that this project on the whole inspired and encouraged- and for that to occur in this time of the pandemic… well that’s nothing short of miraculous.
This year has been really weird, for so many different reasons. Obviously the pandemic has thrust us into isolation and for me, I definitely need human connections to feel normal. So I hope ‘Rise And Shine’ is one of those songs that gives them hope and lets people know, ‘Hey, through the darkest times we can get through it and we can find meaning in those times and really use it to our advantage.’
I came to Nashville right after the show [The Voice]. People embraced me and I felt very welcomed, but I also felt a challenge to prove myself as an artist and not just a winner of a singing competition. There were some obstacles, but it was a really cool process. In the midst of trying to prove myself, I also had people who welcomed me with open arms right away that are still like family to me. I really accumulated such an amazing support system here, right off the bat, in Nashville.
I guess the world is going to determine a lot of what I am able to do. I think that it would be really special to have a coffee house tour where I’m just doing an acoustic tour that’s very intimate…For my next full-band record, I’m going to go more pop-rock. I’m going to stick with my roots of when I started playing in bands and revisit that part of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom writes where I’m focusing on that and really streamlining the writing process to focus on obtaining that sound. It’s been really fun. It feels like me, and I can’t wait to get in the studio to do that. I hope it’s by the end of this year.
I won’t say much more about Cassadee Pope. The winner of The Voice way back in 2012, Cassadee’s discography will be delved more in depth in my blog about her coming soon. So until that time, you can read about Cassadee on Wikipedia, and listen to her three albums, and be inspired and encouraged as to the extent this young woman is due to take the world by storm in the coming months and years. Sure, she’s not as vocally powerful as Kelsea or Maren or Caylee or Lindsay or Gabby or Carrie or any other female in the country music industry… but it’s her determination and her heart and her song writing that really shines through. And that’s why I reckon this release needs to be listened to. So well done Cassadee- I can’t wait to hear your next album, and I’m sure everyone else can’t wait as well!
3 songs to listen to: Let Me Go, Rise And Shine, Built This House
RIYL: Lindsay Ell, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Lauren Alaina