Us Weekly’s Entertainment Director Ian Drew headed down South to review five of this month’s hotly anticipated releases from the world of country music.
Little Big Town huddled up with Pharrell Williams to create the trippy Wanderlust and, in Brandy Clark’s remarkable Big Day in a Small Town, the acclaimed singer-songwriter unfurled 11 more stories from a town so tiny it only has one stoplight and no Waffle House.
Read on for the full reviews, plus Maren Morris’ impression-making bigtime debut, Hero, Dierks Bentley’s electronica-infused Black and Dan + Shay’s second effort, Obsessed.
Little Big Town
3 stars (out of 4)
We’re not in Music City anymore. With producer Pharrell Williams manning the soundboard in this curiously absorbing eight-song collaboration, the quartet sound like the cast of Hair trying to sing its way out of a burning discotheque circa 1979. The harmonies of hippie-dippie verses (“Hey, all my sisters and brothers!” they cheer in the blithe “One Of These Days”) tucked inside wavy grooves are a total trip.
Big Day in a Small Town
4 stars (out of 4)
The faded homecoming queen, now 28 and married to the “guy on the real estate sign,” clipping coupons. A baseball bat–wielding jilted wife causing a scene at Walmart in “nothing but a nightgown.” So many drunken mishaps! The 11 vivid stories on Brandy Clark’s robust follow-up to her magnificent 2013 debut, 12 Stories, will never get old. Music Row songwriting doesn’t get any better.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Take Dierks Bentley with a splash of Coldplay! Plunging his husky vocals into expansive, textured instrumentation in the key of the Brit band, the crooner’s eighth effort is a novel idea. Too bad it’s cursed by generic lyrics.
3 stars (out of 4)
Don’t let the honky tonk smash “My Church” fool you: The rest of the 26-year-old Texan’s major-label debut veers closer to soul and modern pop than old-fashioned country. Her supple voice is the true revelation here.
Dan + Shay
2 stars (out of 4)
It’s nothing to obsess over. Other than the horn-singed, ’50s-styled title track, this duo’s sophomore set plays it too safe with dime-a-dozen rousers (“Round the Clock”) and sleepy ballads (“Sway”). Try again, fellas.