By Emily Wagner
Give her an inch and she’ll take it a country mile. Caylee Hammack is out with her debut album and it’s glaringly clear that she cover all the facets on the spectrum of country music.
We’ve been getting samples of who Caylee is over the last year and a half with a few sporadic singles, that do show up on this album. But as a whole, If It Wasn’t For You is a masterpiece of songwriting, musicality, honesty and production. With this album, Caylee is showing that the new class of women country artists cannot and will not be ignored.
There is a lot to love on this album. Each song tells a little story, and each is purposeful. Caylee herself says she hates fluff; each line in a song needs to mean something. And they all do.
From the ever honest look at family with the gospel, anthemic sounding “Family Tree” to the softer “Looking for a Lighter,” Caylee draws on all kinds of inspiration, love, loss, family and herself. “Forged By Fire” was written after Caylee lost her home in a fire. “Do I get my wings when I stop asking why” is a beautiful lyric that reminds of us of the many things that are out of our control. The tremendous loss also weaves together the fight for a silver lining that can be found throughout the album. For example, “Preciatcha,” is a fun smooth, R & B groove that eliminates lessons learned, how every wrong turn, or mistake only takes you where you are meant to be.
Caylee has some help on the album from a few friends. Ashley McBryde and Tenille Townes join Hammack for “Mean Something.” The song encapsulates the grind that it is in the music business and how hard all 3 have worked to achieve all they have, but to also remember that the job isn’t all there is, and to make the journey be just as meaningful. It’s one I can’t wait to see performed live. Also on the album is perhaps a lesser known name of…Reba. The QUEEN of country appropriately duets with Caylee on “Redhead.” This song has so many words in it, it makes my head spin. But it’s smart and sassy and entertaining and it’s definitely an anchor on the album.
“Small Town Hypocrite” was released earlier this year, and it helped bring a lot of traction and attention to this new up and comer Caylee Hammack. The lyrics and the tone of the song are incredible sad as it tells a story of making the wrong choice; staying with your hometown love, when it really isn’t love, and always wondering about what experiences and joys were missed out on by not leaving. This feels like Caylee at her most vulnerable and is a far cry from the confident “Redhead.”
The final two songs on the album go hand in hand. “Gold” is an interlude, as Caylee calls it. Just shy of 2 minutes long, it is simple a guitar and the voice. No production or auto tune, where the listener gets a better look at who Caylee is. The ending crescendo follows Caylee simple repeating the album tittle, “If It Wasn’t For You” over and over. It’s dramatic and melancholy and feels almost desperate. Before you can catch your breath we move to the final song, “New Level of Life” that begins with the same tag line, “If It Wasn’t For You” but this time it feels redemptive and powerful. That confidence and brass is back. It’s the album’s final moment to once again illuminate that silver lining and triumph over the casualties.
It’s Caylee Hammack and the stories she tells and I can’t wait to hear more.