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RaeLynn

WildHorse – 2017 (Warner Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by RaeLynn

Someone needs to inform karma that Raelynn is not getting what she deserves. It takes a lot of work to mess this equation up: national TV exposure (from "The Voice"), a monster hit (2014's "God Made Girls") and famous friends who've practically adopted you (like Blake Shelton). This is all atop her twangy Texan charm and very capable singer/songwriter chops. But somehow Raelynn's overseers made headshaking decisions. Last time out, they strategically released two mediocre singles (like 2015's tepid "For a Boy") that didn't appear on a superior EP ("Me"). Then they withheld great songs for years ("Love Triangle," widely known to her fans, now finally sees the light of day). Even "WildHorse" itself had its release date pushed back from December to March, successfully diverting the Christmas season.

There's another very good EP in this debut full-length. The first two tracks, "Your Heart" and "WildHorse" are country/power-pop in full effect. These songs are about strength learned from sorrow and asserting your independence. Shelved-classic "Love Triangle" is powerful. But it's rushed and needs just a little more air - there's so much emotion in Raelynn's true-life lyrics about growing up between visits to divorced parents. Other highlights include "The Apple," with a hypnotic drum loop, and "Diamonds," an ode to understanding love surely inspired by Raelynn's newlywed status.

The weaker tracks are a tad too slow and woozy ("Young," "Say," "Praying for Rain") to need repeat listens. This material also seems more kid-friendly packaged compared to her female contemporaries (Maren Morris, for example, drops profane bombs in her deeper tracks). Raelynn doesn't need to ape their style if it's not authentic. But she doesn't need to self-censor either. There's a song about a late-night affection attempt ("Lonely Call"), which in many other's hands would have undoubtedly been titled with a word besides "lonely."

Undoubtedly the pixie platinum blonde will continue to evolve. Raelynn is still only 22. "WildHorse" reflects on all she's learned in what she calls her "college years" - her actual school being that of the hard knocks.