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Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce – 2020 (Big Machine)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce's self-titled sophomore album was fittingly released on Valentine's Day. Love is in the air throughout the 13-track collection. She opens with the breezy "Closer To You" and "Call Me. The album is chock full of notable co-write credits. On the latter, Little Big Town's Jim Westbrook and Phil Sweet have a hand. It feels like a love letter to fellow country singer and husband Michael Ray.

Later on, she ratchets up the pop factor on a throwaway duet with Ray, "Finish Your Sentences," penned by Kelsea Ballerini and Thomas Rhett, that is juvenile and syrupy. "Ooh, you light the fire and I keep it lit Yeah, I know you better than you know yourself/You start it, I'll end it/I love that I can finish your sentences." The young couple's vocal chemistry is the only thing that may allow you to overlook the cliched lyrics.

At the midpoint, the album takes a more serious tone with "Halfway Home." It is hardly somber, but is very self-reflective and was inspired by the guilt she experienced breaking up with an ex. The duet with Lee Brice "I Hope You're Happy Now" is a welcome up-tempo number.

Thanks to the late Busbee, Pearce's silky voice sounds flawless throughout, and her charisma and romanticism shine through. This was Busbee's the last full album he completed before his untimely passing from brain cancer in 2019. He left his crystalline production stamp on every number, and there is a smattering of banjo and pedal steel interspersed within the mostly contemporary feel. While there is no new ground broken thematically, it is sonically pleasant enough for a sunny day windows down cruise, but not necessarily a sit-down listen.