After Taylor Swift dropped her 1989 album, there could be no more denying the cold hard truth— commercial country lost one of its best-selling artists last year. Tay-Tay left behind some big-ass boots to fill, but if you’re a fan of today’s country, that shouldn’t keep you up at night. Why?
Meet Sam Hunt.
Sam Hunt’s new debut LP, Montevallo plays like an ex-inspired album from T. Swift— with one big difference: this album wasn’t cut with your kid sister’s high school heartbreak in mind. In Montevallo, retired college quarterback, Sam Hunt, takes a deep dive into the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with romance. This 30-year-old songwriter from Georgia seamlessly blends elements of hip-hop, pop and country to produce a mature contemporary style that packs the party of frat country while doing away with the tiresome bro persona. From heavy bass, lively drumbeats and hot synthesizers to twangy guitars, honest country vocals and the natural sounds of a hoedown, Hunt’s recipe for success is full of southern-fried flavor.
Though Montevallo is named after the hometown of Hunt’s ex-girlfriend and was inspired by their breakup, some of the album’s best tracks aren’t sad songs. Montevallo’s upbeat tracks deserve to be cranked up and played while you’re dancing around the house in your underwear or cruisin' on a joy ride with friends. The fun feel of these songs captures a relationship's most memorable moments, which range from making a real party out of a night in (“House Party”) to making the best out of a night spent behind bars (“Cop Car”). While you’ll hear mention of getting down and dirty in the back of a truck during the comical hit, “Cop Car,” and the sultry track, “Speakers,” Hunt avoids overdoing cowboy clichés and keeps things refreshingly real throughout his album. Ladies, when Hunt sings to you through your speakers, he won’t make you out to be “another girl in a country song” the way most cowboys at the top of the charts do. In the song, “Take Your Time,” for example, Hunt comes off as a real Southern gentleman.
Like the album’s upbeat tracks, its serious ones are equally relatable— brace yourself for the feels, and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Using word play and clever metaphors, Hunt vividly describes a bad breakup (“Break Up in a Small Town”), the hardships of moving on (“Make You Miss Me”) and a woman who plays him like Monopoly in order to get back at an ex (“Ex to See”). He truly bares all when he reflects on wrongdoings of his own in “Single For the Summer.” In all of Hunt’s serious tracks, piano and other somber instrumentals match the sense of anguish that’s present in his powerful, deep voice. Steeped in pain, these tracks often act as bookends to ones about the good times lovers can share.
The tracks on Montevallo work together to both question and celebrate what it means to be young, alive and in love. Listen for yourself.
Written by: Breanna Caires, UU Blog Editor