Reviewed by Mae Hunt

Lilly Hiatt’s Walking Proof is a classic country album with hints of electronic pop and waves of indie rock that distinguish it as one-of-a-kind. This Nashville-based singer-songwriter’s music strikes me as classic yet quirky, traditional yet unique. How is it possible to balance such extremities? Listen to the album here and see for yourself.

Abundant with vivid imagery, the album for some may serve simply as a dream-like escape from reality. However, while this Rolling Stones article states that Walking Proof is neither autobiographical nor social commentary, I believe there are both meaningful and intentional themes strung throughout Hiatt’s 11 tracks. The songs include themes of love, transition, and adulthood that I believe serve simultaneously as light, leisurely tunes and inspirational, sincere reflections. 

I love the way the album begins, with a declaration of adoration for Hiatt’s younger sister, Rae. If you have sisters yourself, this song will hit home. In a sweet and twangy voice, Hiatt depicts the inexplicable connection between sisters: “Nobody gets it like you do Rae, I put so much on you Rae, ‘Cause nobody gets it like you do.” That platonic love is echoed in Brightest Star, which is an uplifting melody directed at someone overcoming innocent drama, such as boys and school. In this catchy and optimistic song, Hiatt writes: “The brightest star in my whole sky is you.”

In contrast to this platonic love, the album has many tracks that portray fleeting romances. P-Town, for example, shares the slightly humorous story of a romantic getaway gone wrong. Little Believer, one of the most rock-and-roll tracks on the album, is a classic tale of unrequited love: “I haven’t been there much for you, at least not how I’ve wanted to.”

Alright, enough about love. Despite the Rolling Stones article’s statement that the album is not social commentary, there are subtle messages about the world in which we live. For example, Candy Lunch begs the question, “Why does every boy I meet try to tell me how to live or what to eat?” Some Kind of Drug makes an explicit reference to both Nashville’s  gentrification and homelessness problem, stating: “Who are these strangers in my town that just want to tear everything down? And I know it’s everybody’s dream but I swear to god I can’t hear a heartbeat.”  While I don’t think the album is littered with social commentary, it is undoubtedly there, primarily speaking to Hiatt’s experience as a female artist and long-time Nashville resident. 

Finally, there are moments of empowerment and self-love that bring the album home. Never Play Guitar is essentially a love song written for her guitar. In this soft rock song, Hiatt implies that men rarely understand her need for a room of her own to play guitar. The final song, Scream, depicts a woman moving on from a man who made her give up parts of herself. “I played my guitar softly for you” she declares in one of my favorite lines of the album. At the end, she states, “I’m moving on for nobody but myself.”

Interestingly, the almost-eerie nature of the final song is completely different from the upbeat bops of other tracks, perhaps implying some uncertainty in taking life’s next steps. Regardless of whether you are seeking a catchy escape-from-reality, melodious reflections on life, or something in between, Hiatt’s album is definitely worth the listen.

Buy Walking Proof

Reviewed by Mae Hunt
I have a deep appreciation for talented artists who do not shy away from controversy. In Good Souls, Better Angels, Lucinda Williams does just that, addressing head-on many contentious topics, such as mental illness, domestic abuse, and the devil. The unapologetically loud lyrics paired with a unique bluesy-punk pulse coincide to create perhaps the best album I have listened to in a long while. 
Undefinable by just one category, the genre-hopping 12 tracks are versatile. At times, Williams emulates spoken word poetry (Wakin’ Up) and at others she echoes punk rock (Down Past the Bottom). Her raspy voice, which ranges from hissing to bellowing, is paired with pounding drums, electric guitars, and a velvety bass that generate a unique sound for each track.
Released in April 2020, in the midst of social movements, a global pandemic, and politically divided citizens, the album addresses the madness of our current world. In Bad News Blues, Williams voices the relatable inescapability of constant bad news – it satiates our TVs and magazines, reaching us in elevators, in the car, and at the bar. This despair is echoed in Man Without a Soul and, considering the political nature of the album, the unnamed man likely alludes to a man with an overwhelmingly recognizable name, our very own President Trump. 
In Big Black Train, Williams shifts away from punk rock and offers us a soulful ballad narrating experiences with depression. Her voice fluctuates between broken and unwavering, as she declares: “I don’t wanna get on board…last time through it took me far away…didn’t know if I was ever coming back.” Not surprisingly, Big Black Train is followed by perhaps the most triggering and raw song on the album, Wakin’ Up. This angry, grungy, electronic track shares the experience of a woman escaping an abusive relationship. The song consists of short syllables and simple rhymes, somewhat resembling a spoken word poem in which the woman’s anger and fear is palpable.
So, yes, Williams undoubtedly ventures to the dark places many artists are unwilling to go. However, she does not simply take us there only to abandon us. Undeniable hope glimmers through many tracks. In the Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Williams sings about resistance and perseverance through inner turmoil. In the quiet and melodious When the Way Gets Dark, she offers inspiring and hopeful words of wisdom. Her croons, “la la laaa”, sounds tired, perhaps from fighting countless uphill battles, but the message is clear: “Don’t give up, hang on tight, don’t be afraid, it’s gonna be alright….” 
I simply cannot get enough of Lucinda Williams. She uses her 42 years in the music industry, during which she has won three Grammy Awards and two Americana Awards, to create electrifying and thought-provoking music. Not only is she bold, daring, and unforgiving, but she is willing to display those characteristics in her music to create a downright inspiring album.
Listen and buy Good Souls Better Angels

Reviewed by Mae Hunt
Listening to Lessons & Lovers in full is a journey – Wonky Tonk captures the realities of life and love in eleven short songs. The ups, the downs, the good, the bad, and everything in between. Listeners of all ages can relate to these visceral moments of desire, anger, confidence, and longing all captured in a folk album that I can imagine jamming out to in my car, windows down, on a hot summer day. 
Before getting into specific songs, I have to say: man, can this woman sing! Her voice ranges from melancholy croons, like in Cryin’ Shame, to bellowing howls, like in Everyone’s Got a Brian. Her voice, paired with moments of overwhelming instrumentals, truly makes the album feel like a journey.
At closer listen, it is clear that there’s much more to the album than impressive vocals and instrumentals. Wonky Tonk’s lyrics share words of wisdom, grief, even comedy. Actually, Wonky Tonk’s persistent sense of humor struck me throughout the album. In Everyone’s Got a Brian, she curses out a helpless man named Brian, telling him: “Don’t be a dick, it’s easy.” She finds comedic relief in the stereotype that men can easily anger women and all I have to say is…well, I wouldn’t want to be Brian. The whimsical undertone comes full fledged in Suitors when she laughs about having too many suitors in her small town. It’s fun and goofy, which counteracts the desolate, longing tones in other tracks.
Somehow, Wonky Tonk makes moments of anxiety, depression, confusion, and loss palpable to listeners. In Cryin’ Shame, Wonky Tonk’s crooning mimics someone with a broken heart crying into the night over a lost lover. In Never Trust a Doctor, her soft and soothing voice juxtaposes the grief-stricken words of a recent heartbreak. She takes the traditional tropes of romance and throws them into a contemporary context, adding her own flare and uniqueness. In Stock Market, for example, Wonky Tonk asks the undying question: “Why does love bring me so much pleasure and so much goddamn pain?” Well, by the end of the album, it seems she has found the answer. 
The album wraps up with Lessons which perfectly ties together the raw emotions of the other tracks with binds of learned wisdom. Considering the profound insight and reflection in these lyrics, I think Wonky Tonk must have aged a decade between writing Everyone’s Got a Brian and Lessons …. She seems to answer her own question posed in Stock Market, why does love bring me so much pleasure and so much goddamn pain? All the ups and the downs described on previous tracks have led her to the realization that difficult times make her stronger. With empowering vocals, she declares: “I’ve got all the love I need.” Rather than seeking love from others she has found it within herself. 
I have all the respect in the world for Wonky Tonk for the cultivation of such a layered album. A strong, feminist country artist who speaks openly about personal experience with depression and anxiety? That’s what I like to see! More importantly, though, I admire Wonky Tonk’s depiction of her journey to self-love and acceptance, a destination that ends an uphill journey for many.
Listen and buy Lessons and Lovers