Well now. Comedian Rob Schneider’s daughter has hauled off and made herself a country record. And just like Elle King herself, it’s a little much and all over the place. That’s not to say there isn’t any entertainment value to be had. On the contrary. Elle King turns in some real quality songs at times. And even when the album train wrecks, a train wreck can be entertaining all unto itself, especially when that train wreck is conducted by Elle King.
In truth, Elle has probably been more of a country artists than anything else for a while now, if not forever. She won a CMA Award back in 2016 with Dierks Bentley for the collaborative “Different For Girls.” She picked up the banjo as a teenager right after learning the guitar, and cites Earl Scruggs, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash as early influences. Her debut EP was produced by Chris DeStefano, who is a mainstream country guy based in Nashville.
The first time I ever saw Elle King is when she made an unannounced appearance at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion outside of Austin in 2017. She’s toured with Miranda Lambert, The [Dixie] Chicks, and Chris Stapleton. I could keep going, but you get the point. Elle King doesn’t feel like some carpetbagger or interloper. The new album Come Get Your Wife feels more like Elle King making her country allegiance official.
Perhaps in an effort to ingratiate herself to the country genre, Elle King takes on many different complexions on this album. There is is straight up super rootsy country material here. There is absolutely terrible country radio pop. To judge this record as a whole is tough because it’s so all over the place. You land on the right or wrong song, and you may get a completely incorrect notion of what the country version of Elle King is all about.
King’s radio single with Miranda Lambert called “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” is so transparent in its pandering to radio, you almost have to laugh. Elle King also duffs a duet with Dierks Bentley on a song called “Worth A Shot” by adding hand claps and other radio-friendly gestures to an otherwise passable track. With Ross Copperman as a producer on this album, you knew it would take some wrong turns at times.
But brushing those two selections aside as the radio refuse they are, the balance of Come Get Your Wife is much more interesting. Originally from rural Ohio, a song of the same name opens the album, immediately establishing a personal nature to the work. If there is anything consistent throughout the album, it’s a sort of trashy persona that Elle King presents and countrifies for this project. “Before You Met Me,” “Tulsa,” “Crawlin’ Mood,” “Bonafide,” “Blacked Out” and “Out Yonder” all lean into this attitudinal and inebriated character, along with other songs. This is what Elle King wants to broadcast through her country music.
What these respective songs actually sound like is much more complicated issue. “Crawlin’ Mood” written by Charlie Worsham and Jesse Frasure is about as country as country gets. So is the song “Bonafide.” Even in the more pop-ish songs on the album, banjo and steel guitar will breeze in when you’re not expecting it, like in “Try Jesus.” There are also a few songs that are much deeper than the rest of the material, namely “Lucky,” and the Tyler Childers-penned “Jersey Giant,” which might be the best song of the set.
This isn’t meant to be a singer/songwriter album. This is a redneck hurricane slamming the trailer park and sending all the dirty laundry flying, and ripping the sides off of doublewides to expose the secrets. Elle King wanted to make a fun record, and it’s hard to not categorize Come Get Your Wife as such. It’s at least “entertaining,” even if it isn’t entirely enriching. It does find some deep moments, but they’re fleeting. The country moments are more present, but interspersed with pop.
Getting your hands around this album is like chasing down a wet bar of soap. If you’re a mainstream country fan, this may be one of the better albums you’ll hear all year, but perhaps too twangy and rootsy for you. If you’re an independent country music fan, this thing is like walking through a mine field to find the good stuff, but the good stuff is still there and worth seeking out. Perhaps Elle King is throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks, or satisfying the suits with a couple of the worst songs so she can do what she wants, or perhaps country superstardom is what she seeks.
Either way, Come Get Your Wife is sure to be one of the most talked-about releases in 2023, and probably has something for you, no matter your sensibilities in country music.
1 1/4 Guns Up (6.5/10)
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