By Aaron Wagner
To say that 2020 didn’t go according to plan for Carly Pearce would be an understatement. Between COVID shutting down touring, going through a public divorce, and losing one of her closest friends in her producer busbee, it was a year to forget. But it also brought her another #1 song in “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and she spent the year channeling all of those emotions into new music, which she revealed with her latest album 29.
One of Carly’s greatest strengths, which is on full display through this project, is her ability to be completely vulnerable to her fans. Whether it’s in her music, in interviews, or on her socials, country music fans know who Carly Pearce is, what’s going on in her life, and what’s important to her.
Which is what makes 29 so special.
Considering she just released a full length album a year ago with her self titled album, the seven-song 29 project is a sweet spot when it comes to the number of songs. It’s more than an EP and packs enough of a punch, considering that these songs came together relatively quickly over the last few months.
She kicks off the project with what just might be my favorite Carly song to date in “Next Girl.” It has that late 90s, early 2000s sound to it and it’s right in Carly’s wheelhouse. When I saw the track list for the album, “Should’ve Known Better” jumped out to me and the song delivered. It’s honest, direct, yet full of strength and perspective.
The title track of “29” is heartbreaking vulnerability and honesty. She faces her divorce head on and questioning if she’s where she thought she’d be at this point. Staying on that subject matter is perhaps the most cleverly written song on the album. “Liability” is a fun play on words as it signifies being a liability and then breaking the word apart, it’s a backhanded compliment of someone’s ability to lie with their “lie ability.” It’s sassy. It’s savage. It’s so damn perfect.
“Messy” is a song we can all relate to. When dealing with something that’s difficult or after getting bad news, we can make some poor choices but Carly accurately describes how not being okay is okay in this song. If your heart still hasn’t been broken or taken a punch to the gut with the earlier songs, “Show Me Around” will be the one to break you. Written with busbee in mind, it’s a song that anyone can relate to about someday reconnecting with loved ones who have moved on to heaven. It’s powerful and Carly at her best.
One of the things that I loved about this project is that it all revolved around one concept – or for Carly one year of her life. It’s almost like a novel or a tv series. All of the songs detail the pain and emotions that her 29th year brought her, but “Day One” is the light at the end of the tunnel. Wrapping up the album with it is the perfect way to put a bow on it, but more so, it’s about stepping forward and slowly, little by little, move on.