On October 2nd, Hailey Whitters will release her debut album, Black Sheep, via Carnival Music. This ten song collection, all of which were written or co-written by Whitters sans two tracks, is brimming with truthful, reflective and personal lyrics that showcase a female whose individuality is a breath of fresh air among females trying to duplicate the males. The songs are the best kind: stories that deal with life, love and loss in a very straight forward, honest and relatable way. Whitters, whose voice falls somewhere between Kacey Musgraves and Nikki Lane, will have you feeling every word she sings because she sings every word with feeling.
The album begins with “Long Come To Jesus” (co-written with Matraca Berg), a shuffling, somewhat dark country rocker that chronicles her relationship with a man who’s as close to the devil as she’s ever been and how it may take “one holy intervention” to alter her course. That’s followed by the rousing “City Girl,” which finds her having the country blues, wishing she was one of those girls wearing heels, barhopping and having fun rather than living in the middle of nowhere “watching a cat chase a squirrel.”
“Late Bloomer” and “Black Sheep” are songs which complement one another well. In the former, she smartly notes that coming into your own sooner than later might not be a bad thing. “Soon enough just couldn’t come sooner for a late bloomer/What’s the rush in anticipating/Looking back it was worth the waiting.” While the latter tells of being the outsider and how, like the late bloomer, it’s not necessarily a negative. “And who really wants to be white as snow/The thing about black is the dirt don’t show.”
The complexities of love abound on multiple tracks. There’s a heartbreaking realism conveyed in “Low All Afternoon” about being with someone who simply used you. “He got what he wanted from the one he didn’t want/He’s ready to settle down now that he’s messed around with you.” There’s an edginess to “Heartbreaker” on which she warns a guy who might be on the verge of breaking her heart to be careful, as she can give him a run for his money. On the mid-tempo “People Like You” she muses on not being perfect, but finding a love that stays even though it has “every right to go.” Finally, “Pocket Change” (written Mando Saenz and Shelly Colvin) is a honky-tonk tune about not settling to be somebody’s afterthought.
Incredibly personal, “One More Hell,” about the death of her brother, is a song that anyone who has lost someone close to them will attach to and find solace in. “I’d kill for another memory, but I’m thankful for the ones I’ve got.” The album closes out on a somber note with “Get Around” telling the story of a promiscuous woman who seems resolved to have that be her life. “Got Daddy issues, black stained tissues…..And word gets around that I get around, yeah I’ll get around to living it down/It ain’t easy being easy.” Wow.
There is nothing not to love about Black Sheep. It’s insightful, emotional, touching; one of the best debuts in recent memory.