The beauty and attraction of country music at it’s heart is about experiences and relationships. The more honest and open they are accounted for in a song or in lyrics in turn makes it real and at times relatable to the audience. You will typically come across tales of relationships both past and present which are often toned down and traditionally in country music with a melody to fit a mould but the magical thing about the debut album ‘Open Book’ from Kalie Shorr does neither of these things.
I have used a variety of words in the past when I have written about the 25 year old from Maine but the key thing is she is someone that will definitely leave an impression on you. This is a young lady that if nothing else will portray to you that she may not always take herself overly seriously but takes her music very serious and this record is an incredibly honest, open, reflective and uncensored account of her life and her relationships. In addition to being almost blunt with her tales of relationships with others, it is the deep portrayal and showcasing of her vulnerability in the most important relationship any of us will ever experience – the one with ourselves, that this album goes a long way beyond a lot of other things you will have heard.
There are elements that you draw a comparison to some early Taylor Swift and similarly telling tales of breakups except Shorr doesn’t hold back on saying people were an asshole and goes even further with knowing that coming out of a bad relationship you won’t be stuck fucking them forever. This is the sort of angsty Avril Lavigne side which again will be an easy trap to fall in for giving a starting point as there is this pop rock, emo type punk vibe going on with the tracks too which is a great example of how progressive people making music in Nashville are right now. This really is an example of these are the best songs that represent an artist in their current space and are being delivered in the most fitting and appropriate way to reflect that.
The album is genuinely exposing herself literally showing her life is an ‘Open Book’ and there is nothing to hide or shy away from which if you have ever spoken to her or follow her on social media will come as no surprise whatsoever. Then the opening track ‘Too Much to Say’ reiterates that further by almost warning people better be ready for this because you are not going to get anything left out.
The way that she conveys these thoughts and emotions is something you want to be ready for but it’s not just her quick wit and mischievous lyrics that draw you in because you do appreciate and begin to understand more how her life has shaped her to what is today. There are songs that I heard her play live in Nashville when me and my friend Emma from Australia were over for CMA Fest that I was really looking forward to hear her cut. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Angry Butterfly’ just both sum up her up so well and like the rest of the record promote self discovery and ways to adapt to the world.
Her fellow regular Song Suffragette Candi Carpenter is a frequent collaborator in the writing credits and along with Skip Black helped Shorr create one of the most interesting and memorable tracks on the record ‘Gatsby’ which is so clever as a song on so many levels. There is this modern country vibe that retains some traditional elements in the melody and lyrics that are as honest and almost shocking as you will come across. I love the message of this song and I do personally relate to this and one of the other tracks off the album ‘Vices’ particularly, I think certain people have methods of masking their emotional pain and ‘Gatsby’ just sort of sums it up and ‘Vices’ also is a way that people deal with things. In addition to the infectiously catchy hook towards the end of the song “When I get up, I get down, I take my meds and I hit the town” which is guaranteed to get stuck in your head there are deeper lyrics referring to being only February and feeling like the longest year of her life which relates to the death of her sister earlier this year. The track also has what on my first listen (which was on release day having a drink in Amsterdam) was my favourite lyric ever:
I’m funny when I drink and I’m drunk like all the time, because everything’s a joke even my own life
This record is progressive, it is incredibly creative, raw and honest. It gives a really good reflection of what can happen when people in Nashville just go “Do you know what? Fuck it, let’s make something honest, personal and that the people that support me will love!” This is as far from trying to fit a mould as you will find, it feels like hearing this is my world which isn’t perfect but I’m still giving it my best shot and doing in in a way that is most fitting. The more that artists feel free to be this open, honest and not holding back combined with the genre box being pushed in every direction, the better because people in the world that are an asshole need to be told good and proper that they are!
1. “Too Much to Say” (Kalie Shorr, Robyn Collins and Ian Christian)
2. “Escape” (Kalie Shorr and Candi Carpenter)
3. “Messy” (Kalie Shorr, Jonny Shorr and Katie Stump)
4. “The One” (Kalie Shorr, Skip Black and Savannah Keyes)
5. “F U Forever” (Kalie Shorr, Candi Carpenter and Annie Wildgen)
6. “Alice in Wonderland” (Kalie Shorr and Candi Carpenter)
7. “The World Keeps Spinning” (Kalie Shorr, Skip Black and Robyn Collins)
8. “Big Houses” (Kalie Shorr, Skip Black and Savannah Keyes)
9. “Gatsby” (Kalie Shorr, Skip Black and Candi Carpenter)
10. “Thank God You’re a Man” (Kalie Shorr, John Caldwell and Robyn Collins)
11. “Vices” (Kalie Shorr, John Caldwell and Robyn Collins)
12. “Lullaby” (Kalie Shorr, Robyn Collins and Will Stone)
13. “Angry Butterfly” (Kalie Shorr, Simon Reid and Fred Wilhelm)