RaeLynn - Baytown
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Baytown (Round Here, 2020)

RaeLynn

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

Country music should put in the by-laws that there must always be heirs to Dolly on the charts. We've seen plenty of ladies who overdo the sex appeal or come across a little aloof (would Shania really have a beer with you?). The world needs women who are spiritual and free-spirits, who remember when folks sang with twang. To that end, we present RaeLynn, now on Florida Georgia Line's label.

For all her songwriting strength ("Love Triangle" was a high mark) and radio-friendliness ("God Made Girls"), she's still had trouble getting the engine fully cranked on her career. 2017's "Wildhorse" had too many sad diversions and overstayed its welcome as a LP. With "Baytown", named after her Houston area hometown, RaeLynn's returning to the EP form she knocked out with 2015's "Me." Call it a downsize if you want, but another take is that the filler's been fileted. It works way better.

Some of these six songs have been around before this official collected release, and may be familiar. The opener "Keep Up" had a video in 2019 - it's still a fun country step-dance number, humblebragging about Gucci and pickups. "Me About Me" is the leadoff single, a mid-tempo lament of the boy that didn't give his fair share. Melodically, it begs for more. But it shows off RaeLynn's sweet singing -- she has terrific vocal control, pushing and pulling breaths for maximum effect.

When she opens things up with a fuller-band sound, you get the best tune of the bunch - "Judging to Jesus." It's technically hick-hop, and producer Corey Crowder has definitely been listening to Sam Hunt. But it finds a great groove with all-charm lyrics ("If you keep a Bible by your cigarettes / If you go to church in a Cheetah dress...don't worry, 'round here we leave the judging to Jesus"). The ethereal arrangement of "Fake Girl Town" might remind you of other artists lost in their feelings - but the subject of the mean girls feels real, as does the "two-lane girl like me" who sings it.

Now into the second half of her twenties, RaeLynn is showing more adult cred (there's a few cusses in the mix now). A prime example is the gigglefest closer - how breaking up with a guy was like taking her "Bra Off." RaeLynn's now a grown-up wife, but she's still that fun preacher's kid who blazed on the scene as a teen. According to some baby books, RaeLynn means "Beam of Light" - listening to this short, bright set from a short, blonde sprite, you'll believe it.


CDs by RaeLynn

Baytown, 2020 WildHorse, 2017 Me, 2015


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