Album Review – Lainey Wilson’s “Bell Bottom Country”
Not since the emergence of Miranda Lambert have we seen a woman surface in mainstream country music with such promise and passion that carries a wide appeal through an infectious personality, and at an advantageous time when everything is aligning to allow her to be utterly successful, if not dominant for years to come. Lainey Wilson is going to be big, and it’s going to be big for country music, because unlike so many of her mainstream contemporaries, Lainey Wilson is actually country.
Her latest album Bell Bottom Country is an overt and unapologetic establishment of the Louisiana native’s sound and influences. What is Bell Bottom Country? It includes a little bit of classic rock, just a dash of pop sensibility, and a whole lot of unrepentant country. No, this is not like the critically-acclaimed songwriter-based work of Carly Pearce’s 29: Written in Stone, or Ashley McBryde’s Lindeville. But it’s also a lot more fun and animating. Bell Bottom Country is frisky and cool, while still remaining honest to Lainey Wilson.
You cue up the opening song “Hillbilly Hippie” with its “Mama Tried”-style guitar riff, and it immediately sucks you right in. “Watermelon Moonshine” may borrow a little bit from Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” but it’s hard to argue with the results, which is a meaningful and memory-stirring country music anthem worthy of placing right beside a classic like “Strawberry Wine.”
Some may point to the infectious and funky “Grease” as the moment Lainey flunks the country music test, but I respectfully disagree. It’s one of the record’s funnest moments, and isn’t too far off from what someone like Tyler Childers is doing with his sweaty live covers of “Trudy” and “Tulsa Turnaround.” It’s something that would get Jerry Reed to cackle. You can’t expect a straight traditional country effort from Lainey, or even a harder honky tonk record like Jon Pardi’s Mr. Saturday Night. That’s not her. She’s a bit more of a free spirit. But the balance is most certainly country.
More concerning is a track like “Me, You, and Jesus” with its cheesy contemporary Christian production, especially since it could have made for such a cool little country song. Same goes for “Hold My Halo” and “This One’s Gonna Cost Me,” which both came out much rock than country. But what else can you expect from producer Jay Joyce? This is his modus operandi—turning country songs into rock—while steel guitar isn’t allowed anywhere near his sessions.
But these songs are the exceptions, not the rule. Even “Heart Like a Truck,” which at first listen felt a little patronizing as a radio single since it leans so heavily on the “truck” trope, turns out to say a little something more. Like so many of the songs of Bell Bottom Country, Lainey Wilson and her co-writers find the happy medium between meaningful and entertaining. And even if Jay Joyce is all for dialing down the twang, you can’t fully erase it from Lainey’s authentic Louisiana accent.
What makes these songs so resonant is Lainey’s expressiveness, and the folksy nature of her approach. When she sings “Those Boots (Deddy’s Song),” you believe and feel every single word. It puts you right there in her boots, and speaks both eloquently and simply about the Southern family dynamic. This is followed by “Live Off,” where Lainey doubles down on her commitment to remain who she really is, now and forevermore. So often with artists in the mainstream, they use country music as a stepping stone. With Wilson, you get the keen sense that she’s in it for the long run. You trust that your country fandom won’t end in regret like it unfortunately does too often.
“Wildflowers and Wild Horses” feels like the precursor to Lainey’s upcoming appearances on the TV show Yellowstone, where she will be a part of the full-time cast. Along with the strength of Bell Bottom Country and her industry-leading six nominations at the CMA Awards on November 9th, Lainey Wilson is looking to pole vault into one of the very top positions in mainstream country in the next month, if she isn’t already there.
We can rave all we want about independent artists disrupting the mainstream’s iron grip on awards and radio and such. But if the effort to save country music is going to find any real traction, it needs to transition from disruption of the mainstream, to representation in the mainstream, and ultimately, dominance. Lainey Wilson is not the second coming of Loretta Lynn, but she is a giant leap forward for popular country music, and most importantly, one who is finding wide appeal among popular country music fans, and opportunities to go even further.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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Purchase Bell Bottom Country
Country Charley Crockett's Butter
October 31, 2022 @ 7:57 am
This album is bodacious and groovy baby ✌
October 31, 2022 @ 8:21 am
Call me an absolute goddamn idiot fool horse’s ass who only cares about Jeremy Pinnell (who rips), but i just can’t get into lainey wilson. More than that, I don’t think she’s all that country, or all that good. Idk it all just sounds very poppy and i guess she just doesn’t do it for me, even her songs that traditional fans seem to like. Not hating! Just want to see if anyone agrees!! Jeez!!!
You know what rips? “Goodbye LA” (the album and the song)
October 31, 2022 @ 8:30 am
Jeremy Pinnell was at Healing Appalachia and he was good. Time leading up to the concert, I added his albums on playlists so I could be familiar with his music and it’s all good and even a few songs have stuck a month after the concert. But, your fandom, passion, and determination for Jeremy, although I applaud it, far outweighs the lasting impression of his music (on me at least).
October 31, 2022 @ 9:50 am
I will continue to give her a shot, but I also can’t get into her music quite yet. I enjoyed Lindeville, 29, and Raised a lot more on first listens. I’ll give a couple more spins, though.
October 31, 2022 @ 8:28 am
I am thrilled how much I like this album. It is rooted in country, however, fuses different genres together. 8.5 (I gave the recent Pardi album 8.25 and that is downgraded to a 6.85-7. That is not a shot at Pardi, it is just how great Bell Bottom Great is). Highly recommend this album!
October 31, 2022 @ 8:54 am
I’d probably been looking forward to this album as much if not more than any of the 50 others that have come out in the last few weeks because it’s just an important statement for often overlooked and under appreciated females in mainstream Country. It says “yep I’m here, gonna do it my way, and y’all are gonna love it”!! It stands out, it’s got attitude, and style so sorley lacking amongst her peers. Well I certainly have been loving it the last few days. Songs like Weak-End, Those boots, and the incredible Wildflowers And Wild Horses are among my favorites. Going out on her own headline tour before the Enormodome trek with Luke Combs will help her for sure. This should be in the discussion for mainstream album of the year. It’s probably mine, and unlike her last one I like the album cover……..it’s got a flare to it…….oh yes I had to go there.
October 31, 2022 @ 9:37 am
The other Rusty
October 31, 2022 @ 9:22 am
Lainey Wilson’s voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. She is unlistenable, what with her warbling, modulated, whiny, auto-tuned voice.
October 31, 2022 @ 12:11 pm
Same here. I wanted to like her voice, but I just don’t. And I feel embarrassed for her in her clothing choices, so distracting and without all of that mess she’s so much prettier. And the hat does not work on her, imo. Wish her the best of luck, though..it seems like she’s got a lot of fans.
Blake From Oklahoma
November 2, 2022 @ 1:25 am
Rolls eyes. She shouldn’t have left the house withouy your permission, what was she thinking!?
In reality, she doesn’t sound bad and she can look however she wants.
November 4, 2022 @ 5:36 am
Funny I feel the same way BUT about Miranda Lambert. Miranda’s voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Will never understand her success. Lainey on the other hand can actually sing.
October 31, 2022 @ 9:44 am
Kacey Musgraves: “Am I chopped liver?”
November 1, 2022 @ 6:53 am
Kacey cashed out 2 years ago. That last record is atrocious.
October 31, 2022 @ 10:29 am
I understand that some people aren’t going to love Lainey Wilson, but to not see her importance in saving country music would be missing the point. Her vocal power and twang is among the best in the genre, her storytelling has depth and an emotional strength missing in so many corners of mainstream country. Her personality is infectious, her stage presence and energy is on par with the likes of Brandi Carlisle and Cody Johnson.
Lainey takes all those skills and puts them together to put out a fun, country, and emotional album. I really enjoy how the album starts with Hillbilly Hippie and Roadrunner. They’re fun, set a tone, and let you know this a country album. The final two songs of Wildflowers and Wild Horses had me thinking back to the song Better Dig Two by The Band Perry for some reason. Also the remake of What’s Going On by Four Non Blondes was well done and a fun jam along to us 90s kids!
October 31, 2022 @ 11:00 am
Not crazy about most of her music, but she seems like an authentic down home humble gal and it makes me happy to see someone as passionate and grateful as her do well.
Southern Man, Country Fan, and Stuck Somewhere Else
October 31, 2022 @ 11:37 am
I’ve only heard a few of Lainey’s songs (two of them, in the videos here), but as a long-haired male country fan who also loves good ’60s and ’70s rock (and soul, and R & B, and funk of that era), *and* who remembers well the tail end of the ’70s, I do love the humorous album title here! 🙂
I’m not really a hippie (never had any interest in smoking pot, or in drugs in general, and not into the ’60s/70s “free love” ethos at all), but I’m up for checking some bell bottom country (beyond the country side of The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, and such, whom I love). I’ll have to at least give this album a listen or two.
October 31, 2022 @ 12:12 pm
OK, I really like her, as I have said before, there are so many great albums in 2022, hope this continues, hope 2023 is just as good.
October 31, 2022 @ 1:53 pm
I really like Lainey and this album. Was lucky to see her at Under the Big Sky Fest and was completely smitten. But the last thing the world needs right now is a remake of that horrendous 4-non Blondes song What’s Going On. Turd in the punch bowl.
November 1, 2022 @ 2:20 am
one of the songs i hate the most
Lainey’s Mah Gurrrrr
January 4, 2023 @ 10:54 pm
I did find it odd this cover was included as the last song on the album. Should have been released as a separate digital single like “rock and roll, hoochie koo”
October 31, 2022 @ 4:52 pm
This album was ok. Started out good, kinda meh in the middle and got better again towards the end. I completely agree about “Wildflowers and Wild Horses”, feels like that song was specifically made for Yellowstone.
Rocky Mt High
October 31, 2022 @ 7:42 pm
Ahhhh don’t like it. I tried but couldn’t even get through the first four songs, much less the whole album. 7.5 is very generous. I’d give it more like 5.5. Just sayin’.
November 1, 2022 @ 6:50 am
Been a fan since Lainey’s Tougher album in 2016. Was happy to see her break through with some success after the last album, and will continue to be a fan. That said, this album was a bit disappointing to me. I expected that with her success would come some songs aimed at continuing the momentum through radio play, but I feel the overall production on this album is a bit much. Of course Lainey’s vocals will make anything she releases sound country, and there are some good songs here. However, the production on the album as a whole seemed to be over the top and geared towards making Lainey sound like everyone else on country radio. A little less could have been more.
November 1, 2022 @ 10:49 am
I love her voice. I don’t mind the lyrics. I hate the production. A steel guitar works miracles. She seems really kind and down to Earth, though.
Wilson Wins Baby
January 4, 2023 @ 11:03 pm
Love Lainey’s style and personality. She’s entertaining and herself. Jay Joyce overdid it, but she delightfully country. Love
“Smell Like Smoke”
“Hold my Halo”
“Wildflowers and Wild Horses”
And more of her “womanhood” songs on the album… the rating is deserved with this many on-repeat tunes.
November 4, 2022 @ 5:28 am
The review compared Lainey Wilson to Miranda Lambert BUT Lainey is actually a much better vocalist than Miranda ever will be. Miranda could never hit the notes that Lainey can. She has the vocal range that overrated Miranda doesn’t have. She also doesn’t have that thin nasally tone of Miranda’s because she doesn’t sing through her nose. Lainey is also a very good entertainer . Not to mention she can act and will be on the highly popular Yellowstone this season . Lainey is the real deal. I would compare her to mega talented Reba or Dolly. Hopefully Lainey starts winning the cm awards now.
March 2, 2023 @ 6:53 pm
Will she ever change up the wardrobe? I’m an OG hippie and never saw any shiny spandex bell bottoms…always frayed & faded. Lose that hat and wear a dress…just maybe once in a while. (The 4 non blondes song is a NO.)