Reese McHenry
Bad Girl [LP; Sophomore Lounge]

The trials of Reese McHenry are well documented (an understatement), but that hard-earned stake at a second, third, fourth, and fifth life is the soul behind Bad Girl. Recorded with Spider Bags, the soulful country that caresses the album’s grooves are the sort that is missing from daily life. It’s a ragged blend of southern charm and style that has all but been conglomerated and reorganized to the basement stalls of Nashville. But that McHenry can conjure the likes of Springfield, Cline, Lynn, and Joplin throughout the width of Bad Girl is a statement of itself. Now in her mid-40s, one would think McHenry’s new lifestyle choices would impede such a declaration; a fear that McHenry could literally sing her heart out. Yet, she does so only figuratively, though it does not take away from the realness of her words. There’s no doubt that Dan McGee, his Spider Bags cohorts, and some of North Carolina’s finest have done their duty to bring forth McHenry’s definitive artistic statement, but it’s truly her voice and words that make this album spectacular. Side A closer “Leanin’ on You” is unguarded McHenry, singing of her time unable to do little but watch her husband take care of her and the household. And though it hearkens to a domesticated past that many southern women captured in song, it isn’t a song beholden to some antiquated idea of spousal superiority. What’s truly wonderful about Bad Girl is how doesn’t take itself too far back in time. It still has the sizzle and spark of some of the raw country that had its brief moment in the mid-to-late 90s. And I’ll stop short of Whiskeytown comparisons (even with Caitlin Cary appearing on the album), because Bad Girl is more akin to early Richmond Fontaine albums in its ability to tell compelling stories where the sorrow doesn’t weigh the proceedings down and the rare wins feel well-deserved, not by luck. It’s a style and attitude I’ve missed, and to have it just for a moment with Bad Girl makes me a happy man.

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