Album Review – Carly Pearce’s “Hummingbird”

photo: Allister Ann

#530.2 (Country Pop) on the Country DDS

With an uncommon adherence to country sounds for a contemporary popular artist, and bolstered by reams of clever songwriting and spirited performances, Carly Pearce turns in an inspired and compelling album that once again distinguishes her as a major label artist able to accumulate appreciation across country music’s cultural divides.

You could almost forget about Carly Pearce with all the attention being paid to Lainey Wilson lately, and Megan Moroney now quickly coming up on her heels. But a few years ago, the talk was Carly emerging as part of a cadre of popular country women who could offer some needed feminine perspective to modern country. The hope was Lainey Wilson, Carly Pearce, and Ashley McBryde could usher in a fresh new era for country’s women.

Lainey Wilson certainly has received the recognition, but for some she’s is a bit too pop and pushy with the product endorsements to be the ideal fit. Ashley McBryde has the critical acclaim sown up, but may not come with the type of widespread appeal a popular artist needs. But with Carly Pearce and her new album hummingbird (deliberately lowercase), it creates just about the perfect nexus of country roots, smart lyricism, and pop sensibility.

hummingbird is the kind of country album you wish Kacey Musgraves would make, but seems to have moved on from, or that Miranda Lambert would record, but appears to be long since past. The song “heels over head” has that kind of Musgraves reverse perspective wit to it, while “truck on fire” is better revenge fantasy than anything Lambert has done in a dozen years.

Tip your hat to co-writers and producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. You shake your little fist at them whenever they’re working with Sam Hunt or someone similar. But now after many years in the game, you can’t help but recognize the skill and understanding of country music they bring to the table. Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds also have five co-writes a piece on this record.

Carly Pearce is also credited as a co-writer on all but one of hummingbird’s 14 tracks, and as a co-producer too. So let’s not overlook her importance either. But as a team, they put together an album that you wish all pop country albums sounded like, and 20 years ago, they did.

“rock paper scissors,” “oklahoma,” “pretty please,” and other songs come with those lyrical hooks that really sell you on a track. This is country music. Overthinking it often gets in the way. Country is at its best when it’s plainspoken and says profound things in simple ways. hummingbird has ample examples of this.

The album isn’t especially twangy or indicative of ’90s country like we’re hearing form a lot of more traditional contemporary albums these days. But that doesn’t really fit the Carly Pearce flavor profile. Her roots are in bluegrass, so appropriately we hear a lot of fiddle supplied by Jenee Fleenor, along with dobro and lap steel from Josh Matheny.

Only one song features pedal steel, and mandolin/banjo make it on a couple of tracks. hummingbird isn’t loaded down with production. It could have been more twangy, but that runs the risk of limiting the audience. This album still definitely comes with the soft edges and sensible approach to appeal to radio and such. But unlike other albums that do this, the country elements—especially in the writing—are strong enough to still garner the most attention.

As we’ve been saying for a few years now, an album like this wouldn’t have been possible from a major label Music Row artist a few years ago. It would have been at the risk of getting dropped by a label or losing momentum at radio. Now it’s not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

You could almost accuse Carly of chasing the “authentic country” trend if she wasn’t so steeped in it, having been raised playing bluegrass from the age of 11, and performing at Dollywood by the time she was sixteen. It just happens to be in 2024, she’s allowed to express those original influences and inspirations through her music with little or no limitation.

Don’t overlook Carly Pearce and hummingbird. It’s a strong mid-career effort, mature but current, accentuates her vocal strengths with the little crack in her voice at the end of phrases, and should be considered for all those big awards once they roll around again.


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Purchase Carly Pearce’s hummingbird

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