The problem has never been modern country. The problem has never been country mixing with pop or rock. The problems lie in the total eradication of country by these genres to the point you can’t call something pop country anymore because it’s just straight pop slapped with a country label, and too often it’s shitty, generic pop music to add insult to injury. So many traditionalists and especially purists will never find anything to value in modern styles of country music, and that’s perfectly fine as it relates to personal taste. But not all contemporary country is bad, and that’s why it’s so refreshing to see this being done right.
Enter Canadian country artist Meghan Patrick and her new album, Country Music Made me do It. Strict traditionalists, you probably aren’t going to find much to enjoy here–it’s not an album loaded with fiddle and steel by any means. But except for very small instances like on Maddie & Tae’s debut album, the instrumentation is organic, and more importantly, these are good slices of songwriting, enhanced by a great vocalist and by melodies that resonate, two things that are unfortunately too hard to come by at times in the independent scenes.
Even though it’s definitely modern, nailing down the specific sound of this album is a bit tricky. Sometimes, Meghan Patrick blends country and rock, like on the album highlight, “Walls Come Down,” a catchy as all hell tune that details the lives of a family whose secrets are laid bare when both parents have affairs. The sister has her own demons as a result, and as Patrick sings, “sometimes love just ain’t enough to keep the devil out of that picture-perfect house.” In a just world, this would be a 2018 radio hit. Another good country rocker is the defiant “Hardest on my Heart,” wherein Meghan details damaging her liver and her reputation, among other things. There are a lot of songs that detail stuff like this, being a badass and a rebel, to the point they can be a little cliché, but this one works because she acknowledges that her reckless behavior has been harder on herself than anyone. She’s not just proud of breaking hearts and being a strong woman; rather, she’s admitting the toll it takes on her as well as others. And of course there’s the excellent title track and opener, an autobiographical tale of her passion to follow country music.
Other songs could be classified more as pop country. “Bad Guy” and “Small Town” are the two strongest examples of this style, together creating a story in the heart of the album that details the end of a relationship. She has been the one to leave, and the whole town is talking about her, but it seems there is more to this story, and even though it was technically her who left, she didn’t do it without her reasons. Now it seems that the man, especially on “Bad Guy,” is trying to paint her as well, the bad guy, when there are actually two sides to the story. “Small Town” is the continuation, as she’s leaving behind a town that once felt like home to her because she’s sick of hearing the people talking about her behind her back and exchanging half-truths. Both songs indicate that she hasn’t totally moved on herself despite being the one to end it, and together, they create a great moment.
But she’s not always leaving behind relationships and breaking hearts. “George Strait” is a pretty worrisome title, but it’s a surprisingly well-framed love song with actual clever references to Strait songs, so that it becomes more than just a name-drop of the singer. “Case of Beer and a Bed” is one of the best songs here lyrically, as she sings of a couple whose best moments came when they could afford little, and all they needed was each other. Now they are caught up in trying to have more; this song is a reminder that the best things in life are often free, and as Meghan says, “life has a way of complicating love.” This one, though certainly modern, is also one of the most country. “The Way You Apologize” also sees Patrick in a rare vulnerable moment; here, she’s pretty sure the man she’s with is lying to her, but she can’t quite get over him enough to leave him. Not necessarily the best thing on the record, but it serves a nice purpose of showing another side to Meghan Patrick besides the heartbreaker portrayed throughout much of this album.
The only time the style becomes a little too pop is on the small town anthem “WE Got it All.” The lyrics are strong, a noteworthy fact because this had the opportunity to be one giant cliché, and the songwriting saved it from that. It’s just not great sonically. “Underrated” is also just kind of weird–it’s a strange hook to call your lover underrated, and it also has a bit of that East Nashville vibe that’s been done to death and which also doesn’t really suit the otherwise excellent, strong vocals of Meghan Patrick. “Feel me Gone” is easily the best vocal performance here, but the lyrics do fall slightly short, as the narrator is going to the bar alone because her man needs to “feel me gone” and lie awake by himself. She makes it clear that she’s not going to cross the line and just wants him to feel like she’s leaving, but it’s too vague about why he deserves this. Is he not appreciating her at home? Has he cheated on her or left her alone at night wondering, so that she wants him to feel the same way? The vocals here really are outstanding, so this is a minor problem, but having said that, if the lyrics were developed a little more here, this song could have been a standout of the whole record.
But the flaws on this album are minimal, and this is the first truly exciting discovery of 2018 for me. Not the album to buy if you want fiddle and steel, but if you like modern country, you’ll find a lot to enjoy. The melodies are catchy, and the songwriting holds up quite well. IN an ideal world, this is what mainstream country in 2018 would sound like. A great example of contemporary country done right.