Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson’s ‘Bell Bottom Country’ authenticity

Lainey Wilson has exploded onto the country music scene in recent years, particularly with her latest album, “Bell Bottom Country.” This album was released on October 28, 2022, and it smoothly combines classic country sounds with rock, funk, and soul music.



Despite only reaching #10 on the Billboard US Top Country Albums list, “Bell Bottom Country” has received numerous accolades and awards. “Bell Bottom Country” won Album of the Year at the 2023 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards and is now up for Best Country Album at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards.

“Bell Bottom Country” begins with “Smell Like Smoke,” which wonderfully sets up the album’s slightly cheeky themes and country-rock style. This song focuses on Wilson’s distinctiveness, tenacity, and lack of perfection, but in a positive way. The lack of perfection is seen in the sentence, “Well, I’m still my daddy’s angel, but my halo’s kinda bent.” Wilson’s song is titled, “Heaven’s where I’m gonna go, the Bible says so on my shelf / But if I smell like smoke, it’s only ’cause I’ve been through hell.”



From there, she switches to “Hillbilly Hippie,” which perfectly describes Wilson’s personality and background, as she is the perfect blend of hillbilly and hippie. Wilson defined her sound as “country with a flare” in an interview with American Songwriter, and this song is a perfect example. “Hillbilly Hippie” contains a pounding drum beat, quirky guitar riffs, and Wilson’s spot-on vocals. “All peace and love up until I ain’t / Willied up with a whiskey drank / Hillbilly hippie / All day long.”



Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson's 'Bell Bottom Country' authenticity
Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson’s ‘Bell Bottom Country’ authenticity

The next track is “Road Runner,” which begins slowly in the verses with a cool effect layered over her vocals, but as the chorus approaches, her vocals and instrumentals explode into an intense rhythm and a quick flow of lyrics. Though the guitar shines on every tune on this album, it shines even brighter on this one, which is surprising given the quick tempo.



The lyrical material makes it sound like an anthem for a wild child running away with their sweetheart but also warns this potential couple that they’re a little wild.

“Watermelon Moonshine” is by far one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s a lovely and nostalgic, yet sexy song about youthful love and going through all of the “firsts” with this person. This song is substantially more acoustic than the first three, which is appropriate given the song’s content.



Despite the simplicity of the tunes, Wilson’s voice shines and glides effortlessly through them. This was the song that led me to fall in love with her music. Also, when I first heard it, I could completely connect to the thrilling sentiments of a new love, which feel just as joyful as this song does.

“Watermelon Moonshine” was released as the album’s second promotional single on August 12, 2022, and reached number one on the Billboard US Country Airplay chart. “Too young to know what love was. But we were learning on a delicious haze / There’s never anything like the first time / And mine will always taste like watermelon moonshine.”



Wilson maintains the sultry sound and themes from “Grease.” This is a considerably more intense and less innocent follow-up to “Watermelon Moonshine,” since it clearly uses kitchen metaphors to convey sexual content. This song is by far the most funky on the album so far, combining parts of country, rock, funk, and soul, which she does so well. “Let’s slow it down, and let me help you. / Button down that blue-collar (come on) / Boy, your touch is scorching up / You make the kettle on the stove want to yell.



Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson's 'Bell Bottom Country' authenticity
Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson’s ‘Bell Bottom Country’ authenticity

Wilson slows things down with track six, “Weak-End,” the most vulnerable song on the record thus far. She talks about loneliness, heartbreak, and moving on from a prior relationship. Its acoustic composition, along with Wilson’s beautiful but sorrowful vocals, creates a tune that really tugs at the listeners’ heartstrings. “Yeah, the weak end of a heartache / A permanent case of the Mondays / Maybe I’ll get over you one day, someday.”



Wilson then changes to “Me, You, and Jesus,” a somber but uplifting song. She sings of going through life’s ups and downs with a partner who accepts her for who she is without passing judgment. Though I am not generally drawn to songs about religion, this one is so lovely, real, and honest that I can’t help but enjoy it. “Y’all don’t give up or give a damn, you just take me for who I am / And we can get through anything, me, you, and Jesus.”




“Hold My Halo” focuses on Wilson’s more mischievous side, with themes of getting wild at night and putting her halo back on in the morning. This song is a little rougher and funkier than the others on the album, leaning more towards a rock feel due to the use of electric guitars and percussion, as well as the lyrics.

“Tell that angel inside of me to hide her wings and lay low / Hold my halo”

Track nine, “Heart Like A Truck,” is by far my favorite song on the album. A new listener may assume based on the title that this song is about trucks. Instead, Wilson utilizes a beat-up truck as a metaphor for discovering power and freedom in the bumps and bruises that life can dish out. Her vocals are superb in this song, especially during the bridge, when she maintains an astonishing high note.




“Heart Like A Truck” was the album’s lead single, which was released on May 20, 2022. It reached number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and second on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. Wilson’s music video for the song also won Female Video of the Year at the 2023 CMT Music Awards.

Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson's 'Bell Bottom Country' authenticity
Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson’s ‘Bell Bottom Country’ authenticity

Wilson sings, “Lord knows it’s taken a hell of a beating / A little bit of love is all that it needs.” But it’s good because it is tough. “I have a heart like a truck.”

The next track, “Atta Girl,” seems like a comforting hug from a close friend after a heartbreak. The music sounds upbeat, positive, and loving. The lyrics recount the story of a devastated girl and what her previous love took away from her, as well as all of the nice things she still has in life, even without the relationship. The soft and laid-back instrumentals go wonderfully with the song’s premise.



“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.”

Wilson then transitions from soothing to naughty in “This One’s Gonna Cost Me.” This song has a strong rock flavor, beginning with electric guitar riffs and heavy percussion. This song is about falling in love with someone new and becoming hooked to being around them.




“Ain’t no buzz like love, love’s like a drug / And hell drugs ain’t ever free / There’s no telling what this one’s gonna cost me.”

“Those Boots (Deddy’s Song)” is an excellent representation of what country music is all about. This song recounts Wilson’s early memories of her father and was written during his hospitalization. The boots mentioned in the song represent the type of person he is and what he believes in, as well as his love and loyalty to his family.




Sonically, this song leans toward a more classic country feel, which complements the way the words construct a beautiful image of the story she wishes to tell. The song is a country two-step with traditional banjo, dobro, and acoustic guitar lines.

“Those boots will never go out of style / One day they’ll walk me down the aisle / I pray every day, one day I will / Find a man to fill / Those boots.” Wilson’s anthem “Live Off” celebrates her identity, upbringing, and lifestyle. It fits the mood of the previous song, as it is nostalgic and reflective, while also allowing Wilson to convey her pleasure in her distinctiveness.



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Despite its minor role in the song, the steel guitar in the background lends a lot of flavor to the overall sound. Wilson’s vocals are comfortable, pure, and delightfully twangy.

“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.”
Track 14 is “Wildflowers and Wild Horses,” the latest single from “Bell Bottom Country.” It was released for radio play on November 13, 2023. This is undoubtedly another standout track on the CD.



The music takes the listener to a vast open field, beginning with minimal guitar and banjo strumming that seems far away. Around the 40-second point, Wilson’s vocal finally appears, bringing the song’s vigor to the foreground. The layers of instruments and Wilson’s voice add to the intensity of the song as it progresses.

Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson's 'Bell Bottom Country' authenticity
Media Reviews: Lainey Wilson’s ‘Bell Bottom Country’ authenticity

Based on the lyrics, this song appears to be an anthem of independence and resilience. I think this song is a great representation of Wilson’s ability to hold her own in the country music industry while staying completely authentic to who she is and where she came from. In addition to that, I think that she focuses her energy on the kind of music she likes and does not cater to what the masses prefer, furthering her ability to remain a unique individual in the industry.



Lainey Wilson

Wilson’s song is titled, “I push like a daisy through old sidewalk cracks / Yeah, my kinda crazy are still running its courses with / Wildflowers and wild horses.”

The next song is “What’s Up (What’s Going On),” which is a cover, as it was originally performed by the rock group 4 Non Blondes. Wilson put an infectious country twist on this catchy song. It seems to be a vocally challenging song, but she does it so well.



“I take a deep breath and I get real high / And I scream at the top of my lungs / ‘What’s goin’ on?'”

The album comes to a close with the somber and reflective “New Friends.” This is the longest track on the album, coming in at four minutes and 15 seconds. This heartbreak ballad discusses trying to return back to life as usual after a breakup and craving interaction with new friends while still longing for the relationship she lost.



I think this song is the perfect ending to this rollercoaster of an album. Through experimenting with new sounds and genres, to discussing all of life’s ups and downs, this song grounds the listener by finishing up the stories of “Bell Bottom Country.”

“Ain’t nothin’ here can hold me / Like only you can / If you ain’t comin’ back, baby / I’m thinkin’ maybe I could use some new friends.”

Wilson has absolutely made a name for herself with this masterpiece of an album. It perfectly encapsulates her musical influences and genre-bending abilities, as well as her commitment to being true to herself. Her successes this early on in her career are a testament to her talent and I think that in the near future, she’ll skyrocket to country music superstar status.



 

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