Despite this being Natalie Hemby’s debut album, Hemby is anything but new to country music. Hemby has written hits for Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town and Toby Keith among others. Five Hemby written songs have gone to number one on the country charts since her career began in the mid 2000’s. Puxico is the name of her debut album which is named after her hometown of Puxico, Missouri.
“Time Honored Tradition” starts off the album with an uptempo song about small town life. You can go searching for the customs and traditions of a place like this but, you won’t be able to find it. This theme of small town life is prevalent throughout the album and something you will find in practically every song. “Lover’s On Display” is a fond look back on young love. The feelings that were felt and the adventures that were experienced.
“Grand Restoration” goes back again to the idea of honoring small town living. She describes the importance of honoring history in the face of a constantly changing world around her. Time goes by as pieces of history become antiquated however, we should celebrate and honor the past. “Cairo Il” is the best song on the project. The raw emotion that Hemby protrudes about a long forgotten town named Cairo makes the song stand out. She drives past this ghost town and considers the history of it and the people who used to call this place home. Nothing in this town ever moves, it is as though the town is frozen in time.
Another one of my favorite songs on the album is “Ferris Wheel.” A Ferris Wheel is used as a metaphor for life. The rise and the fall of the Ferris Wheel represents the ups and downs that we experience in our lives. We dream about getting to the top in life whilst staring from the bottom. This idea could make sense from Hemby’s perspective in her life specifically. She has written many songs that have gone on to be recorded by big name A-list country stars, while she continues to go unnoticed by the greater mainstream public.
“Worn” pushes the idea that all the best things in life have a little wear to them. This isn’t the first time that I have seen this idea in a song and it doesn’t necessarily connect with me all that much. The production/music on this song is also too much alike to the rest of the album a problem that I will get to later. “I’ll Remember How You Loved Me” is about all the things that have happened in her life that she will forget but, the one thing that she will never be able to forget is how she was loved by someone. Things like who was president at that time will leave her memory but she will never forget the way that she was loved by this man in particular.
The real difference sonically in this album comes in with “This Town Still Talks About You” and “Return.” Both songs sound unique sonically from the rest of the album. I love the idea for “This Town Still Talks About You” and I love the more modern production on this song. This is about someone (we don’t know exactly who) that has left the small town. The listener gets the feeling that the person in question may have passed away but, we are left to figure out the mystery. The people of the town frequently share stories about this person and the memory of them cannot be forgotten. I actually see it as a good thing that the listener doesn’t know who the person is or what happened to them. This is a great example of a songwriter not spoon feeding the listener everything and leaving some things to the imagination.
Overall, I found this to be a really great album. I actually listened to this album 5 times before it was officially released on Friday to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. This idea of small town living being the main theme of an album reminds me of the most recent albums from Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark (2 other phenomenal artists). My complaints about this album would be that nearly every song sounds the same from a music perspective. Most of the songs are acoustically charged with some faint steel guitar in the background. My other complaint about the album is the last song on the album “Return.” It is an attempt to change up the tempo and the sound but for me it falls flat.
I would absolutely recommend this album to anyone who appreciates mostly traditional country music with an acoustic feel throughout. There is a beauty to the simplicity and nostalgia of this album as Hemby looks back fondly on where she grew up. I struggled coming up with a grade on this album and I changed my mind after every listen. Finally, I settled on an 8/10 because, the album is not without flaws but I still believe that this is a great album with a lot to like. I look forward to more solo music from Hemby in the future.
Album Grade: 8/10
Favorite Songs: Cairo IL, Ferris Wheel, This Town Still Talks About You
Who Would Like This? Fans of Acoustic/Traditional Country and fans of Kacey Musgraves/Brandy Clark