Lainey Wilson – Bell Bottom Country

This Is Hit Inc / Broken Bow Records

Release Date: October 28th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Lainey Wilson– Bell Bottom Country (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  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 (Deddy’s Song)
  12. Live Off
  13. Wildflowers And Wild Horses
  14. What’s Up (What’s Going On)

One of the buzziest artists at the moment- one of the few artists that people seem to be talking about and that I reckon will have a long career; is country artist Lainey Wilson. With Lainey having released her label debut album Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’ at the beginning of 2021 (an album we as a site probably should have reviewed!); Lainey was present in our honourable mentions’ list of artists who will be influential throughout the next 5-10 years. Lainey has been nominated for and has also won plenty of country awards; and her vulnerability, openness, and honesty, in her lyrics, as well as her heartfelt emotion and power behind her voice, remind us all, that she is indeed a rising star, and someone we should listen to and support in the coming weeks, months and years. It’s a shame that we as a site didn’t review Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’; but when Lainey released her latest single “Heart Like A Truck” in May this year… well, we decided that we needed to give our opinion. And therefore, as I ruminated and mediated upon the emotive, powerful, compelling, and inspiring lyrics… well the short answer was that that Lainey has done it again and has delivered to us a powerhouse melody that is sure to create discussion and provide us comfort and inspiration. Fast forward to now… and here we are with Lainey’s release of her sophomore album Bell Bottom Country. And… I’m not making the same mistake twice. I’m reviewing this album and making up for lost time. So, take a read at my thoughts and listen to one of this year’s most talked-about albums and talked-about artists as well.

These past few months have been such a whirlwind, but man, it was quite the journey to get here. Miley wasn’t playing when she said, ‘it’s about the climb,’ because it really is what builds character and teaches you the most about yourself. This is a song about finding freedom in strength, and not being afraid of your scars and bruises. A truck that has hit a few bumps and earned a few scratches has proved itself and its tenacity…the shiny one on the lot can’t say that. I’ve been through some s***. We all have. But when you get through it, you’re stronger and better for it on the other side. Nothing can hold me back from moving forward and finding a way to enjoy life, no matter what. I hope this song reminds y’all of that.

I learned to ride horses before I learned to walk so, I felt right at home on set, but I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to really do character acting for the first time—it ended up being such a creatively fulfilling and thrilling experience.

I worked with Elizabeth for a Frito’s commercial spot with Yellowstone and was so impressed by her talent, I had to have her be a part of this project—she really wowed me on this one. It was also really cool that it ended up being a whole team of badass women in charge of bringing this thing to life. It ain’t every day that you walk on a set and have a female director, executive producer, director of photography, etc. so them all being able to relate to the protagonist made me feel like there was an extra level of care, it was really special.

On a track list of 14 songs, it’s easy to be lost in the shuffle of songs which sound the same as each other. But Lainey’s vibrancy and distinct voice shine through and make this album experience all the more enjoyable. Lead single “Heart Like A Truck” essentially is a melody about persevering through the hard times, getting back up when you’re down, and having resilience and determination. With Lainey singing about the difficult times in her life and comparing it to a rusty old truck; she relays to us that her heart is like that truck that seems to be broken down, but still is durable and still works. In essence, Lainey is conveying to us that her heart is strong and that she can handle anything life throws at her. It’s a powerful melody, and Lainey’s vocals have never been better (think a young Dolly Parton!); and so… I’d say that’s all you need to know, and I reckon you all should listen to this melody, and quickly!

The first record, Sayin’ What I’m Thinking, I viewed it as a little bit of an introduction to who I am, what I want to say, and how I want to say it. I really just felt like for the second record, I needed to up my ante. I needed to show growth. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past two years. A lot of the songs from my first record, I wrote those in 2016, ‘17, and ’18, and recorded them in ’19. All my songs are my babies, but you live life, and you grow, and you develop, and so does your song writing. I truly believe this is a huge step up for me. I was like, “We can’t go back.”

During the shutdown, I believe I wrote 300-plus songs. Not all of them were good (laughs.) I don’t know if there will ever be another record where I get to be this prepared. I did have a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to say. It really developed the sound that I always wanted to do. You hear a little bit of it on my first record, but I definitely felt that we were starting to hone in. 

Just getting to know myself, that’s what I did during the pandemic. I think we all did. We were all locked behind these walls. You were forced to sit with your thoughts and emotions. I had tons of time to write music. And then right before we went in to cut this record, I ended up taking a little writer’s retreat with two of my favorite writers (Trannie Anderson and Dallas Wilson) and ended up last-minute coming up with four songs that I put on the record because I felt like those beat out the other ones. It’s been such a fun process. I was a songwriter before I was anything, and so I take a lot of pride in my writing. It makes me feel something. There is nothing like writing a song when you’re all in a room together and you’re all on the same page, and it feels like you’re creating something from nothing. It feels like the Holy Spirit!

The record’s called Bell Bottom Country and I feel like I have to explain me and my music. And the best way for me to explain it is country with a flare. Whether that’s my sound, my look, or whatever it is. This record is about pulling back the layers of who I truly am. I feel like the songs do that too. I’m sharing way more of me than I did on the last record, and that’s important. It’s scary, but it’s important. I want people to listen to this record front to back and feel like they can be unapologetically themselves. 

That’s what Bell Bottom Country is. It’s about finding whatever it is that makes you different and unique and leaning into it as much as you can. Whether it’s where you’re from, the way you look, the way you talk, how you were raised, or really anything. It’s about being proud of that, and being like, “This is who I am and I’m going to lean into it.” And that’s what I did for this record.

The rest of the album sounds like a typical southern ‘redneck’ country album… but don’t let that put you off Lainey’s project. Bell Bottom Country is quite different to anything released this year, and that’s what makes this album all the more appealing, enthralling, and inspiring. Album opener “Hillbilly Hippie” is a huge ball of energy, where Lainey also vividly recounts her life and her lifestyle- as she emphatically sings out that she’s a ‘…hillbilly hippie, right down to the bone, a little Mississippi, whole lotta rollin’ stone, all peace and love up until I ain’t, willied up with a whiskey drank, hillbilly hippie all day long, red as the roads runnin’ through my veins, free as the wind and amazing grace, lost as a feather from a bluebird wing, wild as I wanna be, just as wild, well, I’m wild as I wanna be…’. Commanding and unapologetic, Lainey eloquently and passionately sings about her identity as a country singer, and reminds us all that we need to be secure in who we are as people in order to live as free as we can for all of the days of our lives. With Lainey reiterating that she’s a ‘hillbilly hippie’ and won’t apologise for her roots; we also subtly encourages us all to not forsake where we’ve all come from, and that our identity is also based in our hometown and our past- no matter how traumatic, colourful, unique or mundane it may be.

“Road Runner”, an eclectic and explosive rock/country/Americana track, speaks about Lainey’s desire and penchant to always be moving and to always be on the road, so much that it affects relationships and her ability to want to settle down. A track that encourages any potential partner to hit the road with her; Lainey describes a nomadic lifestyle of a touring musician, and reminds us all that we need to be aware of the opportunity costs of doing a certain job- do we know what we’re getting into at the moment or are we like the ‘blind following the blind’- doing something because that’s how it’s always been done? “Watermelon Moonshine”, a vulnerable and honest ballad, speaks about Lainey’s first kiss, and how she compares the feeling to drinking watermelon moonshine; while Lainey continues to lyrically rise above her contemporaries, as she compares loving her man (in an emotional and in a physical sense) to cooking on the stove with lots of oil and grease- in the sassy and playful song “Grease”. “Weak-End”, quite possibly one of the most personal, emotional and heartbreaking songs on this album, has Lainey singing about how she isn’t over her ex yet, and is getting drunk on the weekend, that ‘…everybody wants somebody on the weekend, a go sit at a bar have a drink with, a neon bad decision they could leave with, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t, yeah, I didn’t, wish that Friday wasn’t just another way to say lonely, and Sunday morning didn’t dawn on me, that I’m hungover from the weak-end, yeah, the weak end of a heartache, a permanent case of the Mondays, maybe I’ll get over you one day, someday…’; while Lainey continues to pour her heart out and be incredibly vulnerable, with the fervent and inspiring track “Me, You and Jesus”, with Lainey outlining that her relationship with her current partner is rock solid, just like her relationship with Jesus, and that ‘…it’s me, you and Jesus, y’all just listen and don’t judge me, just shake your head and love me, when the world comes between us, y’all don’t give up or give a damn, you just take me for who I am, and I swear, we can get through anything, me, you and Jesus…’.

Is it strange or weird to hear a song about rebellion and about acting out and about doing crazy things… straight after a song that’s about honouring God? Maybe… but nevertheless, Lainey has done just that with “Hold My Halo”. An unabashed, no-nonsense track about shedding the goody-two-shoes image and about living life on your own terms, Lainey reiterates that she rejects the ‘sanitised’ image that Hollywood sometimes puts out to their young pop stars- as Lainey vibrantly and passionately lets us know that she wants to do things her own way and run her own race. “Atta Girl”, an empowering and uplifting anthem, speaks to the people who have had their heart broken, with Lainey singing out that they can actively change their life for the better, and that ‘…you’re looking at a girl who’s got a damn good heart, and some big dreams up ahead, and now you got you a brand new start and both sides of a queen bed, he mighta took your love, mighta took your time, and the rug out from under your world, but he can’t take all your happiness, go and get it now, atta girl…’; while the intense and hard-hitting rocker “This One’s Gonna Cost Me” speaks about the choices that we make when we actively try to get drunk, while knowing what the consequences are and will be- but obviously not caring about them in the end. The song speaks about the knowledge that drinking will result in a hangover… but the persona in this song is so high or so hurt, that they just want to feel something, even if it is unhealthy for them in the long run. And though this song is pretty depressing, the reality is that people do feel like this- that they choose the buzz and the high of something temporary and fleeting, rather than something that lasts forever. And so… is this song the most important from Bell Bottom Country? Maybe? Quite possibly?

“Those Boots (Deddy’s Song)” is a heartfelt, raw, unfiltered, emotional, and personal ballad, and a tribute and homage to Lainey’s father. With Lainey conveying her love for her father, she also shows her respect and admiration for him and for his dedication to her mother and to the land as a farmer; while the joyous, celebratory, incredibly infectious pop/country track “Live Off” has Lainey outlining that she is going to live the way she lives and that no one is going to stop her- particularly because she has had a tough road to get to where she is as a musician, and that the way she lives is because of her morals, values and beliefs: ‘…I live off a back road in a small town story like my daddy before me and his daddy before that, I live off a hard day’s work, penny saved, penny earned, just to keep this shirt on my back, aw yeah, I live off of a good man’s lovin’ with tough in his blood and a heart of pure gold, from the very first breath I breathe to my last “y’all”, I ain’t ever gonna turn the way I live off…’. It’s a bold, no-holds-barred declaration, and one that comes from a place of ‘blood, sweat and tears’, while Lainey presents “Live Off” as the heartbeat of the album. The haunting, mysterious and ethereal ballad “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” vividly speaks about Lainey being proud of her heritage as a farmer, that ‘…I’m five generations of blazing a trail, through barbed wire valleys and overgrown dells, I’m barefoot and bareback and born tough as nails, I’m four fifths of reckless, and one fifth of jack, I push like a daisy through old sidewalk cracks, yeah, my kinda crazy’s still running its courses, with wildflowers and wild horses…’. It’s a well-appreciated ‘peel-back-the-layers’ kind of look behind the scenes at Lainey’s vibrant life on the farm; while Bell Bottom Country ends with the stirring, moving and eclectic Linda Perry cover “What’s Up (What’s Going On)”.

It was some hard days. It [living in a camper trailer] taught me that this thing was not going to be easy. It taught me perseverance. And when things didn’t work out my way, when doors closed right in my face, that made me work harder. I could sit here and tell you sob stories all day about my life and moments where I was living in a camper trailer and things were falling down all around me and people were passing away. It was just hurt. ‘Heart Like A Truck’ is semi-autobiographical I guess you could say. It’s about finding freedom in strength, not being afraid of the scratches and the scars along the way. It’s about embracing those things because at the end of the day that makes you, you!

I think it [my determination] comes from, for the longest time, people not taking me seriously. I truly do. I think it was those seven years of being in Nashville and I mean, I even had a song that Luke Combs cut that we wrote together. It didn’t matter. I still could not get a publishing deal to save my damn life. I had a lot of folks thinking that the way that I talk is not really the way that I talk. And I’m like, well, you oughta talk to my momma and my daddy and my sister and my granny.

I’m proud of the way that I talk. I’m proud of my story. I’m proud of where I come from. I’m proud of how my momma and daddy raised me. I’m proud of the hardships, and yeah, I want people to know that you just take it on the nose, and you be you, unapologetically. That’s what this whole record is about. It’s about leaning into whatever it is that makes you you.

[I had no illusions that music] was not gonna be easy. I was doing three or four parties a weekend and fairs and festivals. All my friends in high school were going to the LSU football games and living it up. I never even thought twice about it. I never felt like I was missing out. I felt like I was putting some notches on my belt.

I’m not gonna lie, I was scared. I felt like I was a long ways away from home, and I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. [But] I could go play there [at a local bar] two or three times a month and be fine for a month. That way I could really focus on the big-picture stuff. [But the phone calls back home]… oh my gosh, I felt like I needed to tell ’em any little tiny good thing that happened. That way they weren’t like, ‘When are you gonna bring your ass home?’ But they never did. Whether it was big things or little things, I tried to let ’em know where I was headed because I didn’t want ’em thinking that I was just twiddling my thumbs and not going anywhere. They knew that I was working hard. [When I got a recording contract], I was still one of the countriest people around, and not just the way that I talked, but the way that I sang and what I write about. I was a fish outta water for a while, and I think I just reached a point where I was truly comfortable in my own skin. My ‘give a damn’ just kind of busted.

Lainey Wilson has given us a gem of an album. It might not resonate with you (because it’s incredibly ‘country’!); but I for one love the diversity and the lyrical content here. Bell Bottom Country probably isn’t an album for those who only love pop, or those who only love CCM; but if you’re willing to give Lainey a try, then I promise you, you definitely won’t be disappointed. This concept of going through hard times and persevering and living life on your terms and being unapologetic for who you are, may be cliché… but Lainey’s delivery on all of these songs, is on point- and I can’t stress enough to all of you that she will probably be one of the biggest female country stars very, very soon! So, what are you waiting for? Listen to Bell Bottom Country again and again and again, and be amazed at Lainey’s prowess as a singer and as a songwriter!

There’s definitely songs that I was like, “I could hear a feature on this.” But I think you gotta be careful with how many features you do. Who knows, maybe eventually after the record is out there for a little bit, kind of coming back and maybe putting a feature on one or two would be cool. I want people to know that I’m here to take care of business and share my story, but collaborations are important. Cole took a chance on me. That’s what HARDY’s doing, too, and I appreciate them for it.

I made myself a promise that if any door opened that was gonna give me an opportunity to share more of my music with the world, then I was gonna say yes without even thinking about it. I met [show creator] Taylor [Sheridan] at a horse wrangling competition in Vegas and we exchanged numbers. I sent him music and they used two of my songs in the show. During the pandemic, I went to the Yellowstone Ranch and played an acoustic show for the cast and crew. Taylor called me in February and said, ‘I want to create a character for you. I want you to dress how you dress, sing your songs and be you.’

I grew up going to bluegrass festivals with my grandparents, so I’d love to do a bluegrass album at some point, maybe a gospel-bluegrass record. It’d be cool to have Alison Krauss on there, Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle, who played acoustic guitar on this album with “Wildflowers and Wild Horses.” I’d love to do a redneck Christmas record. I haven’t written any Christmas songs, but I’ve got a list of ideas.

5 songs to listen to: Road Runner, Weak-End, Heart Like A Truck, Those Boots (Deddy’s Song), Live Off

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Ingrid Andress, Kelsea Ballerini, Hardy, Ashley McBryde, Dolly Parton, Hailey Whitters, Gabby Barrett, Tenille Arts

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