Country music carries with it the promise of a kind of idyllic traditionalism, even in its most forward-thinking forms. the genre implicitly promises that there is a place where you will find the person who completes you and build a quiet life in the middle of nowhere together. however, in reality, life keeps getting in the way. the best country lives in the tension between those ideas, between the life you are supposed to want and the world that gives you so many other options, and then cruelly takes some away.
and sometimes you just need to scream, cry, bang your fists, and maybe fire a shotgun into the air. enter the “hey, fuck you, dude!” song.
Reading: Carly pearce review
typically (though not exclusively) recorded by women, the “hey, fuck you, dude!!” the song is about what happens when some jerk breaks your heart and then leaves to be with someone else. as you see his truck receding into the distance, you yell, “hey fuck off dude!!” but that’s all you can do.
Naturally, many of these songs focus on divorce. From sad, lonely classics like tammy wynette’s “d-i-v-o-r-c-e” and dolly parton’s “starting over again” to more gripping tracks like loretta lynn’s “x-rated” and kacey musgraves’ “breadwinner,” the very definition of a woman after of ceasing to be a wife is a perennial theme in the country (and popular art in general).
and now you can (and should!) add carly pearce’s 29th album: written in stone from 2021 to the list. It’s a full album of farewell anthems, inspired by a marriage that lasted less than a year, and marks a huge step forward for one of country music’s most exciting young stars. Hopefully, she’ll help it reach audiences that don’t normally listen to country music. Those audiences might just love Pearce’s dry, biting take on complete and utter heartbreak.
Pearce married fellow country singer Michael Ray in October 2019, but their marriage ended less than a year later, and Pearce officially filed for divorce in June 2020. Heading 29: Written in Stone, then , refers to how old Pearce was when their marriage began and dissolved. But she also talks about her anxiety surrounding her impending 30s and her attempts to find a way forward in music after the death of her longtime producer, Busbee, in 2019, just weeks before her wedding.
It’s an album that looks back at the marriage of Pearce’s parents and her country music ancestors like Loretta Lynn, and forward at what Pearce might have learned from their divorce that she will bring to future relationships. he is appropriately angry in some places, appropriately grieved in others, and appropriately relieved in others. it’s an album written by someone who didn’t expect their relationship to end so quickly, but she’s also willing to admit that it’s probably a good thing it ended before she and her ex could become even more entangled in their lives. >
the opening track, “diamondback,” nicely sets up what listeners can expect from the album. Its title evokes the deadly rattlesnake, but the song splits that word in two, as Pearce assures his ex that he can have whatever he wants, but “he’ll never get that diamond back.” that song and others on the album have a great “get drunk in a club with your friends after a bad breakup” energy.
Pearce balances them out with plaintive ballads, like the album’s second track, “What He Didn’t.” In that song, she apparently explains to the imaginary friends gathered at the bar why she ended her marriage, not talking about what her ex did to break her heart, but about all the little things he didn’t do. that they disappointed her. . And yet, even as she balks when asked to divulge all the gory details, she assures us, “We both know she could run him out of this town. that’s just laundry; I don’t need to use the truth.”
it’s easy to draw comparisons between pearce and musgraves. both regularly release lyrics filled with evocative imagery, emotional complexity, and winking puns. Pearce, for example, uses the title of her hit “Next Girl” to both refer to her ex’s upcoming fling and to warn that new fling, “I know what happens next, girl.”
29: Written In Stone has made the comparisons even more accurate, as Musgraves also released an album about his divorce last year, just a week before Pearce’s album came out. Musgraves’ Star-Crossed came with a fleet of expectations that he couldn’t hope to live up to, and his harsh departure from a pure country song upset many in Musgraves’ fan base. (I really liked the album, actually.)
In short, this album knows that any relationship that ends deserves at least a couple of “hey, fuck you, dude!!” Songs 29: Written in Stone has more than its fair share to make all your friends scream at the bar, but it also has a lot of heartbroken wisdom for when the last call comes and you realize your lover isn’t coming back.
29: Written in Stone could speak to those who want a purer version of the country what it means to disintegrate what you thought would last your entire life. Like Musgraves, Pearce is willing to take the blame for the ways in which she let her marriage down, but while Musgraves could overreact to such ideas, appearing as though she had fallen into self-loathing, Pearce is more than happy to throw dirt away. on the grave of his ex. he dug himself.
29: Written in Stone is available on all major music streaming platforms. physical editions are also available on cd and vinyl.