Album Review – Taylor Hunnicutt’s “Alabama Sound”

#562 (Southern rock) on the Country DDS

…and the Southern rock gods from their perch way on high in country music heaven gazed down through the firmament to behold Taylor Hunnicutt and her debut album Alabama Sound. And they were pleased.”

Tales have been told for a couple of years now of Taylor Hunnicutt and her band, and the tall order they leave in their wake for everyone else trying to match the grit and soul they exude on stage, including some of the folks they’ve opened for, leaving some to conclude it was Taylor’s name that should have been at the top of the marquee. It’s sweaty, greasy, full-tilt stuff you can use to fry up chicken or slather over biscuits, or pack wheel bearings with in a pinch.

Taylor Hunnicutt has been so damn good and ascendant live since she appeared on the scene, any talk or time for singles or albums became secondary, even as she was shooting up the depth charts as one of the hottest names in roots music. Being on the road 200 days a year doesn’t leave a lot of room for studio time. But she did take a moment in the Clearwater Studios in north Alabama to record her debut album, and she released it back in March with not a lot of lead up or fanfare.

Alabama Sound is the sound of Alabama. It’s a little bit country, a lot of Southern rock, a good bit of soul, and some incredibly emotive performances by Taylor Hunnicutt that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. Her band happens to be hot shit too. This isn’t an album recorded by a lead singer with a studio band who first heard the songs a few minutes before they recorded them. This is an album of songs that were road tested for years sometimes, and cut live with the dudes who’ve banged them out in dive bars and bigger stages all across the United States.

There is little attempt to “explore the studio space” on the album. It’s what you get when you see Taylor Hunnicutt live, sans the crowd noise and some asshole spilling his beer on you. If anything, Taylor and the band have progressed even further than the moments captured for posterity here. But it’s one hell of a starting point, and is putting Hunnicutt on the map of some who haven’t had an opportunity to see her live yet.

Nothing Taylor Hunnicutt does comes in half measures or is understated. She has no library voice. Her seven is like a ten for most singers. Eight is about as low as she goes, and even then the emotion is still at a 10. And when she really gets after it, it sets off the Richter scale. Many folks can’t help having at least a little cosplay involved when they attempt to sing with this deep level of soul. But with Taylor Hunnicutt, these songs come straight from her guts, and you believe every word she billows out.

As much as this is music made to rattle windows, Taylor Hunnicutt as a songwriter should not be overlooked, nor should the compositional smarts of her band. This is really highlighted in the second half of Alabama Sound. The title track is a delicious specimen of groove-based Southern rock if there ever was one. Hunnicutt really shows off her songwriting in the devastating “In It For The Pain.” If you’re looking for a more country-sounding song, check out “All or Nothin’.”

Seeing her live is still probably the best way to experience Taylor Hunnicutt. That’s not a slight on this album as much as a testament to the live performance. In an era where some of the biggest up-and-coming acts started with a viral snippet on social media recorded in their bedroom, it’s refreshing to see an artist workshop her songs and sound, and pay her dues first before stepping into the studio.

But don’t mistake it, Taylor Hunnicutt is poised to master all mediums of music, and you have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with Alabama Sound.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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