Spring is finally here and with it the release of one of the sunniest albums of the year, ‘Raised’ by Hailey Whitters. Fresh from wowing the crowds at C2C festival, Hailey is ready to bring back sweetness, light and humour to the country music genre. Raised is an ode to her country upbringing in Iowa, a reflection of where’s she from and a celebration of who she is at heart.
The kind of twee, cute and fun country music has been sorely lacking for the last few years. Kacey has gone over to the dark side of pop, the Chicks have got divorced and are wearing a lot of army gear and leather, even Little Big Town are singing sad songs about god and sexism. Step in a girl with ribbons, cute dresses and cowboy boots to brighten things up for a change.
Everything She Ain’t and Big Family are the kind of brilliantly catchy songs that sound effortless but feel like rare miracles. Theres also a great duet on here with American Aquarium’s BJ Barham called ‘Middle of America’ which is a slice of heartwarming heartland 90s country.
From lush and thoughtful songs like the title track Raised, which focus on who she is and where she came from, to more sassy takes on identity on Plain Jane we have an artist willing to be commercial while also experimenting a little with different styles. The Neon has a more obvious contemporary, radio friendly sound similar to what Maren Morris has perfected lately, albeit with added fiddle to keep things country.
Dolly is another obvious influence here, especially with lyrics about the contrast between your country upbringing and the big wide world. College Town explores the identity struggle of moving away to University and Pretty Boy offers kindness and compassion to those who don’t fit in.
Another highlight on here is Everybody Oughta which is a spin on the list song. Like many of the songs on here it is reminiscent of early Kacey in tone and there’s also a couple of songs about smoking weed and drinking beer to add to the High Times style fun. Hailey owes her a debt musically for sure but there’s none of Kacey’s cynical, eye rolling personality in the lyrics which keeps these songs fresh.
In fact Boys Back Home and In a Field Somewhere are so glossy and rose-tinted they sound like a fantastical dream. Well times have been so bad lately you can’t help wanting to look back at simpler, happier days. Sentimental hearts need sustenance too.
Raised may be too cheerful and commercial for some. Maybe it does lack a bit of bite and originality but honestly when the songs are this enjoyable I find it hard to see that as a negative. A ray of light is still a welcome sight even if you’ve seen it before many times. Shine on, Hailey.