The follow-up to her fantastic 2020 Never Will album, this one is easily one of the most fun and entertaining projects I’ve heard all year. You can tell that Ashley and her fellow writers really let their imagination run wild in the lyrics of these songs during a weeklong exercise in a rural cabin outside Nashville, and I love everything about it.
From residents like bartender Lonnie, drug dealer Patty, Blackout Betty, Jenny, Tina, and many more, she tells such a compelling story about what small town life is really like, and though it’s mostly exaggerated, a lot of the concepts and truths at the core of the songs are not all that far off from the reality a lot of us experience on a daily basis.
I know I always say this when there’s a big album release, but you really do need to listen to this one from start to finish to get a sense of all the characters involved and the progression of all the different stories.
At the end of the day, much like life, it’s all downright hilarious, and coupled with top-notch writing from Ashley, Brandy Clark, John Osborne and a few others, it’s easily the most well-formed and well done concept albums I’ve heard in a long time.
I could go on and on about all the nuances and connecting stories that she so perfectly crafted and put together here, but I’m going to give you a few of my early favorite’s and let you take it from there.
Here we go…
“The Girl In The Picture”
“The Girl In The Picture” is one of the most somber moments on the album, as the last verse details the fact that this girl is clearly wanting something more, but has already lived out her glory days as the pretty girl who “won the blue ribbon at the county fair,” and nothing more to the people in her town:
“It’s a shame that all she’ll ever be, Is the girl in the picture That won the blue ribbon At the Faulkner County Fair.”
I think a lot of people in small towns relate to the idea that they always hoped and wished they could’ve gotten out and done more with their life, but at the same time, feel the pull to stay rooted in where they come from.
It’s hard to think of a more universal concept than that, honestly:
This is a sweet song about an old man named Pete who lives in Lindeville, but is told from the perspective of a man who knew Pete as a child.
Featuring lead vocals from John Osborne, of Brothers Osborne (who also produced the album), I think we’ve all known someone like Pete at some point in our lives. He lost his wife to cancer and his thumb in Vietnam, but likes to tell people that “he used to be a hitchhiker, but not for very long.”
Who didn’t go to church with an old guy like this who always had a good dad joke up his sleeve? Classic…
“Bonfire At Tina’s”
This is easily my favorite on the 13-song tracklist. “Bonfire At Tina’s” describes the fact that, in small towns, and really everywhere it seems honestly, women are often taught to compete with other women instead of building them up, unfortunately.
But when somebody gets their heartbroken, everybody knows it’s time to rally together and take the asshole heartbreaker down… word always gets around in a small town, right?
Ashley tells the story with such a sassy southern edge that feels so real to me, and she told Kelleigh Bannen on Today’s Country Radio that it felt very true to her life, too:
“I love that song. There’s nothing I don’t love about that song… ‘Small town women, we ain’t built to get along.’ We’re not. We’re not designed that way. We’re not raised that way. We’re not trained that way.
We are trained to not like each other off the bat, but we’ll get together and hate somebody in a heartbeat. We don’t like each other, but we all don’t like that guy.”
If that ain’t the God’s honest truth, I don’t know what is….
Small town southern girls are truly a different breed, and Ashley captured the good, the bad and the ugly that comes along with friendships, love and life in a small town so perfectly on this song in a way I have never, ever heard before:
And if you’re just looking for a good laugh and a song where you think, ‘Lord have mercy, where have I heard something that before?’ make sure you check these out:
“Gospel Night At The Strip Club”
“If These Dogs Could Talk”
It’s safe to say Ashley put on a clinic in storytelling and songwriting on her fourth studio album, and I commend her for not only creating a concept record that isn’t even remotely cheesy, which is a feat in and of itself, but also making it something I’m going to go back to over and over again for a long time.
This project really has it all, and in between all the funny lines and exaggerated telling of the town drama and what’s going on in Lindeville, there’s a hell of a lot of truth, and that’s the thing about small towns across America…