Carly Pearce - Hummingbird

Big Machine Records


Carly Pearce’s HUMMINGBIRD is, without overhyping it, everything you want from a country music album. Her performance throughout emanates confidence. There’s some hotshot rootsy instrumentation on here. More importantly, while the album’s overall production should land it on any country radio or fan’s playlist, Carly’s lyrics are piercing enough to give you a little medicine with your sugar. A singer with a knack for crafting some of the most delectable tearjerkers, HUMMINGBIRD is an ideal entry into the ‘sad girl summer’ canon. With 2021’s 29: WRITTEN IN STONE, she made a flat-out classic, with each hit another chapter in her ongoing story of break-ups and heartaches. If you ever wondered if Carly could stretch the emotional intensity of her We Don’t Fight Anymore hit into a whole album, be careful what you wish for, because this album is a heartache and a half. Hey, why settle for a sad girl summer when you could crown the Sad Girl Century? Breakup songs that draw blood; Carly holds off until she’s got a whole album of keepers, and it has been well worth the wait for the emotional testimony that runs through these fourteen songs.

Heavily influenced by country music’s classic past—Tammy, Patsy, Patty, Reba—she’ll pillage ideas from anywhere, always writing herself (and her audience) into the story. That’s why any random 30-second stretch of this set seems like an unrelentless kick. She’s a voice I love to zone in and focus on, along with millions of other fans, but I don’t think any of us really understand how Carly’s heart really works, and neither does she; she’s still learning as she traverses life’s treacherous heartbreak trail. Most fans would have been content if she’d just stayed in the role of country’s teardrop Queen. But instead, Carly fights to learn and grow up on her own terms.  Having ridden in with a ready-made style on 29, that would have been easy to repeat, she’s followed-up with a sequel that refuses to go for the obvious and reaches deeper. She leaves a few of her past selves behind—some go quietly, others get kicked downstairs. The upbeat Country Music Made Me Do It is a light-hearted nod to how country music has channeled her life through both the good times and bad; the glow of a first kiss and the inevitable break-ups. It’s an easy-going song set in a neat arrangement utilising a blend of fiddle, pedal steel, and tasteful electric and acoustic guitars. 

There’s an abundance of up-tempo songs here as she faces break-up and infidelity issues with fortitude and determination. Sawing fiddle sets the tone for the danceable Head Over Heels, as she offers a dire warning to a wandering guy that the girl he’s chasing is second best to her. Discovering what her cheating boyfriend has been up to results in positive action in Truck On Fire, with the singalong chorus ‘liar, liar, truck on fire,’ that will go down a storm in concert. She takes a similar stance in the fiddle-driven Rock Paper Scissors as she faces a break-up stoicically, but instead of petrol, she uses scissors to rid herself of all the bad memories of an unfaithful husband. Unfurling steel guitar licks scuttle under the rousing Fault Line, which is crying out to be a male-female duet. If you close your eyes, you can hear sounds that recall Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s ‘marriage’ songs in which each partner clearly expects something different from the relationship.  

But at the heart of this album are those heartbreaking ballads that place Carly in the same class as those legendary female country vocalists of the past. Oklahoma treats a lonesome drive along an interstate like an epic quest for that much-needed relief from getting away from a futile relationship, and when Carly’s behind the wheel, it is. With a bluesy edge, Pretty Please portrays a desperate woman seeking solace, friendship and maybe romance in a bar. As she’s been treated so badly by men through the years, Carly has Trust Issues, as she questions her relationship with the man in her life. These songs are full of tenderness and rage. Great voice and songwriting throughout from an artist who oozes authenticity. As universal as it is personal, HUMMINGBIRD is perhaps Carly Pearce’s best work yet.

June 2024