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Natalie Hemby – Puxico

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from chorus.fm for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    In the summer of 2015, when I put Chris Stapleton on the last-ever incarnation of AbsolutePunk.net’s Absolute 100—a feature dedicated to celebrating up-and-coming, under the radar artists—I asked a pair of questions that have since proved to be prophetic. The first was “If given the opportunity, how many of country music’s gun-for-hire songwriters could make better records than any of the artists they write for?” The second was “How many of them could make masterpieces?” More than I thought, apparently.

    Since Stapleton’s breakout success, the songwriters seem to be taking back Nashville. 2016 brought major critical and/or commercial successes for Maren Morris (who had previously written for Kelly Clarkson and the TV show Nashville), Brandy Clark (who had previously written for Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, and Toby Keith, not to mention a slew of co-writes with Kacey Musgraves), and Lori McKenna (who penned two of the biggest hits in modern country with Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”). Hopefully, these big successes will push Nashville labels to take chances on more of their top songsmiths. Who knows how many stars are waiting to be born in the liner notes of your favorite country records.

    Natalie Hemby is almost certainly one of those “stars waiting to be born.” Just like Stapleton, McKenna, Morris, and Clark, Hemby is hardly a Nashville newcomer. The first credit listed on her Wikipedia page dates back to 2006, when she co-wrote a song called “The Bees” for LeeAnn Womack. Since then, she’s amassed writing credits on albums from Eli Young Band, Carrie Underwood, Amy Grant, Little Big Town, Sheryl Crow, Blake Shelton, and Keith Urban, to name just a few. She also co-wrote 10 of the 24 songs from Miranda Lambert’s 2016 double album The Weight of These Wings, making her the album’s key collaborator, as well as the best song on Maren Morris’s Hero (the Bonnie Raitt-channeling “I Wish I Was”). Based on those songs alone, I was wishing for a Natalie Hemby record before I even heard one was in the works.

    Hemby’s solo debut—dubbed Puxico, in honor of her grandfather’s hometown—is the first great album of 2017. And while you can certainly hear traces of the people Hemby has worked with here—Lambert is the most obvious, as many of these songs wouldn’t have been totally out of place on The Weight of These Wings—she also undeniably builds her own world. Though it’s dropping in January, Puxico feels like a record for nostalgic summer nights—right down to the Ferris wheel on the cover.

    That summertime atmosphere probably isn’t an accident: the press releases for Puxico note that Hemby visited her grandfather and the eponymous town on an annual basis, and the album as a whole certainly sounds like a summertime family road trip. I remember so many summers, making the (lengthy) drive from Traverse City, Michigan to Hanover, New Hampshire to visit my grandparents. This album, more than any I can recall, recreates the simultaneous rush of familiarity and excitement that comes when you are a regular visitor someplace. When you’re a kid, those visits to grandparents or other family members are exciting because they offer breaks from the routine, but they are also familiar because you’re going back to a place that feels as much like home as your own hometown. “Puxico isn’t my hometown,” Hemby says, “But it feels like it is.”

    The album feels like home, too. The magic of this record is that, while it obviously captures a photo album of memories that Hemby has of a specific small town in southeast Missouri, it could also be about virtually any small town in America. “Ferris Wheel” evokes the innocence, sweeping romance, and neon-colored lights that appear in small towns every summer when festivals, fairs, and carnivals come to town for a few days. “Lovers on Display” captures the wonderment of small town romance and those late nights when it feels like you and the person you’re falling in love with are the only people in the world. “Cairo, IL” is about how each of those small towns you drive by when you are cruising down the highway in the middle of nowhere has its own stories. Each one is a hometown that someone loves in exactly the same way that you love your hometown. “Worn” is about how the dust, dirt, grit, and hard work that defines so many small rural towns is something to take pride in. And “Return” is a song about how, when you find a place that feels like home, it will always feel like home—no matter how many times you leave and come back.

    Puxico is only nine songs long and only lasts for 33 minutes, but it carries so much life and beauty that it feels grander than that. Youth, family, falling in love, leaving behind the places and people you call home, and eventually, finding your way back: all of these topics take root in the songs that make up Puxico. Hemby may have worked with a lot of Nashville’s biggest stars—certainly enough to know what goes into writing a hit song—but here, she’s not chasing any trends or trying to fit herself into a certain type of box to get on the radio. Instead, she’s following her muse and making gorgeously personal music that both country lovers and country skeptics will love. Her status as an A-list songwriter will get the album noticed, but it’s her sheer talent as a writer and an observer of the human experience that will nestle this record deep down in listeners’ souls—and keep it there.

     
  2. FTank

    Trusted Prestigious

    Cool review Craig, this album is so good
     
    Chase Tremaine and Craig Manning like this.
  3. jco3

    Regular

    Damn, great review. Loving this record.
     
    Chase Tremaine and Craig Manning like this.
  4. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Thanks guys, glad you're enjoying the record. I have a feeling she's going to pick up a lot of steam throughout the year.
     
    FTank likes this.
  5. Zip It Chris

    Be kind; everyone is on their own journey. Supporter

    Cairo is such a great song, love this album!
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  6. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Feel like I need to take an evening road trip with this record, that song in particular.
     
    Chris Prindle likes this.