Do you want to listen to a pure country album? Perhaps one that sounds like Jo Dee Messina, Patty Loveless, and Lee Ann Womack? Then I absolutely have the perfect album for you to listen to, Carly Pearce’s 29. Carly Pearce released her third album, 29, just a little over a year after her self-titled album came out. She released this project on February 19, 2021. It’s her shortest body of work, but it’s her best and most vulnerable body of work.
The last year, for most people, has been…well, terrible to say the least. For Carly, at 29, she got married, lost her producer that left a hole in the music industry, and then divorced. And that’s the story this project tells. She gave an intimate performance of the tracks on a YouTube live stream and it was beautiful. I cannot wait until it’s safe again for live shows because there’s nothing quite like hearing some of your favorite songs live by your favorite artists and yelling the lyrics with a room full of strangers. It’s an unbeatable feeling.
Carly Pearce’s 29
Sonically, I cannot get enough of this album. It sounds exactly what I grew up listening to. I love pop-country and I’m never one to argue what is or isn’t country. Because at the end of the day, it’s not that serious. If you enjoy the music, just stop arguing where it fits into and enjoy it. But this record IS, in fact, very country. The sound is exactly why I think this is Carly’s best work. Because it’s her most true work. This is the sound she’s been dying to get out into the world since she came to Nashville. I firmly stand by the notion that 29 is exactly what she was meant to create. Her voice is so nostalgic and there’s just something different in her voice than what anyone else in country music sounds like.
“If My Name Was Whiskey” from her first album and “Dashboard Jesus” from her second album have the elements of 29. These are the exact stories and sounds she’s been trying to make since coming to Nashville. For the longest time, before her first record came out, people were telling her that her sound wasn’t “it” anymore. She missed her time in the industry. Today, I hope she laughs in the faces that told her she wasn’t going to her anywhere with this sound. Because she got here and is serving up some of the best songs in the industry right now. And for that, I’m incredibly proud of her. Especially doing all this while dealing with immense grief and heartbreak.
Carly Pearce’s 29 | Track-by-Track
Favorite Line: “I bet he said he never falls this hard / Yeah, I remember that part / He knows how to say all the right things / Knows how to get you outta that dress / Knows how to make you think you’re the best thing / But I know what happens next”
This is the message in a song I absolutely love. There’s no shade to the new woman in an ex’s life that essentially is replacing you. Only a fair warning. A warning for the next girl to protect her heart. The narrator tells her that he knows exactly how to get women to fall for him and then how he will eventually switch up on her. And move on to the next, girl. The toxic cycle repeats. I love that it’s an empowering anthem rather than hating on the next girl.
Sonically, it gives me the vibes of Patty Loveless’s “Blame It on Your Heart” if that song was recorded in 2021. It has a well-meaning message but a fun, upbeat, nostalgic country sound to it. The music video was lighthearted and I really enjoyed it. It really highlighted what it’s like to be a single woman in bar-setting – trying to date or not.
Should’ve Known Better
Favorite Line: “Still some nights, I’m crying on the floor / But I’m not sleeping in the bed you made, no more / I gave you my heart, you let it go to waste / You made me do the leaving and you made me take the blame / Does it make you feel good, to make me feel bad?”
Sonically, I love the way the beat drops once the first chorus hits. The instrumental break just before the bridge is ’90s country balled perfection. A steel guitar in a song always makes my heart warm. It just sounds so good.
Here’s what Carly had to say about the song, “That one I actually wrote with two of my dearest friends [Emily Shackelton and Jordan Reynolds] in the industry, and it came from just a really honest, vulnerable place of trying to not assign blame for things that maybe you overlooked. And I think that that song, in particular, was kind of my quest, to try to not do that to myself, but I hadn’t quite allowed myself to forgive myself for that. I think we all have moments of that.”.
Favorite Line: “By now, I thought I’d have it figured out / But I’ve never felt as lost as I do now / And everybody says, “You’re only twenty-nine” / But I feel like I’m runnin’ out of time” and “I held on for dear life, but I still fell off the horse” and “Seems like everybody else is hangin’ on to it / But I swear to God I barely made my way through it”
This is one of my top three from this project. Between the undeniably country sound, her voice, the lyrics, and just ultimately everything about this song is beautifully aching. The chorus of the song feels so personal to Carly’s life the past year but, also in a way, universal to so many people in their twenties.
You’re watching everyone around you living their best lives and you feel like you’re just not. This is such a false belief we all hold, no one is really thriving at all these days. And certainly, nobody really posts about their failures and struggles online leading you to believe in the false notion that you’re the only one feeling that way. But I digress. Sometimes in your life, you just stop and think “this is not at all where I thought I would be by now”. That’s a hard pill to swallow and accept. But really no one is really ahead or behind because there is no set timeline of life – even if you have one laid out for yourself.
Carly Pearce’s 29
Here’s what Carly had to say about the song, “I’ve played ’29’ for some of my friends, and they’re very similarly saying to me, ‘We know this is your story, but I hear myself in this.’ And I think that’s just kind of the universal message of why I named the collection 29, which I feel like is a pivotal year for people. You are old enough to know better, but you still have wonder, and you’re still excited about life, but maybe things in life didn’t turn out exactly as you thought that they might.”
“And you kind of feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, am I running out of time? Because I feel old now.’ And for me, 29 was a huge year. I lost a lot of things. I lost my producer, and I also clearly went through a super painful divorce and never thought that was going to be a part of my story.”
Just relax, hold on, and keep going. You’ll make it out on the other side eventually. Don’t worry, you’re going to make it where you want to be one way or another.
Favorite Line: “The way those words roll off your silver tongue / Your fabricated love’s become a liability / And oh, it’s killin’ me / How you stand there oh-so-confidently / Can’t believe your look-me-in-the-eye ability / Your lie ability, yeah”
The witty sass that is this song makes me unbelievably happy. Just all the serotonin here. Yes, is it about a husband cheating on his wife and lying about it straight to her face? But it’s so good and catchy. When you know someone is lying but you just wait it out to see just how far they’re willing to go to keep up their façade. However, as she mentions, a lie isn’t built to last. No matter the context of the lie, it’s bound to come undone eventually.
Favorite Line: “Movin’ on is messy / It ain’t always gonna be a clean break and it’s okay / Whatever it takes these days / ‘Cause heartbreak isn’t sexy / And there ain’t no wearin’ it well, goin’ through hell / So give yourself some grace” and “Everything’s gonna be fine / Everybody ain’t okay sometimes / You’re fine ’til you’re fallin’ apart / Over it, back to the start / It ain’t on your mind ’til you’re replayin’ every memory”
I felt so seen with this song. When you’re going through a breakup, that’s exactly how it feels, messy. You’re grieving a relationship, you’re grieving that person who is alive but no longer in your life. And you’re grieving that version of yourself. The version of yourself that was in the relationship doesn’t really exist anymore and you have to let that go. You have to let it all go. And the process is messy. You cry and you try to convince yourself that you’re fine – that you can go on a date with someone new. Except you realize that it was way too soon for that. You send drunk texts – and sober texts – that you know you probably shouldn’t. It’s just that. Messy.
Carly Pearce’s 29
Here’s what Carly had to say about the song and I just love how she explained it, “Going through a divorce during quarantine was not pleasant. But, kind of like piggybacking on what I just said about not being good to ourselves, I think that song was me wanting people to know that when you’re going through something difficult, you’re going to have moments where you think you’re fine.”
“I think, especially in our society today—certainly in my position of being somebody in the public eye—you want to act like you’re perfect. And I think this song was me telling myself, and also hopefully telling others, that it’s okay to not be okay. And that you need to love yourself and love the process of grief.”
Show Me Around
Favorite Line: “I hate how much that losing you hurts / I hope you know you left your mark on this world / And I swear that I’d give anything on this earth / To see your face / But for now, I’ll wait”
Losing loved ones always hurts. But songs like this really show the hope and light in such a place that is rather dark and hurting. I really loved what Carly had to say about this song, “I flew out to busbee’s funeral the week after I got married, and Barry Dean, who’s a writer that just is so poetic, he started speaking of heaven like Disneyland and said that he felt like busbee was finding all of the special parts to show his daughters and his wife and all of us when we got there. And I wrote ‘Show Me Around’ in my phone.”
Carly Pearce’s 29
“And faith is a really big part of my life and it was a big part of busbee’s, and so I had no doubt that he was in heaven and I had no doubt that this was the right messaging for him. I took it to two of his very close friends, and we wrote it and it’s kind of taken on its own little life for other people. And I hope that it just brings people hope that loss can be something that’s kind of bittersweet and they live on and you’ll see them again.”
I’m not much of a religious person, more on the spiritual/universe side of it all. And just like everyone else on earth, I have no idea what happens after death. But it’s comforting to imagine that your loved ones are happy somewhere. They’re reuniting with those they have lost before them, and just waiting for the rest of their friends and family to join them one day. While they wait for you, they’re exploring the best places to show you. Grief is painful and often crippling as it lingers with you in life. So peaceful, hopeful songs like this often alleviate the pain even for just mere minutes.
Favorite Line: “I know I’ll be bettеr off alone / Give it time, broken hearts have a mind of their own / I wish I knew a way to skip over the pain, but I don’t / There’s no way to say how long it’ll take / ‘Til the damage comes undone / All I can do is try to get through day one”
If a song was therapy, it would be this one and “29”. Day one of recovering from anything – or grieving anything – is always the hardest. When you’re in the grief of it all, you feel like you’re never really going to get over it and not think about it every single day. But eventually, you do. Eventually, you start to find joy in your life again. You start to fill your time with new things and people. And you’re going to realize one day that it doesn’t hurt anymore. That’s what’s going to make you smile. Because you did it. You made it through. You just have to get through day one.
Here’s what Carly had to say about the song, “Shane [McAnally] and Josh [Osborne] actually had started that idea with Matt Ramsey from Old Dominion, and they were like, ‘Man, we just could never figure out what it was missing, but it was never quite right.’ You feel like there is no way you’re ever going to get over this person, but if you can just make it through the first day, you’re on the right track. And this song just kind of takes you through that time of trying to realize if you can just take that first step, all these other things are going to happen.”.
This song is also in my top three of the project.
Carly Pearce’s 29 | Track-by-Track Conclusion
In conclusion, I love this project. I sing these songs far too passionately for a woman who has never experienced a divorce. And is still in her early twenties. But what can I say? That’s the beauty of powerful songwriting. I love the idea that her last album was basically an “I fell in love” album, and this project embodies the aftermath of that. Falling in love is one of the best, most wonderful experiences and when you’re in it, you tell everyone and everything about it. This project is cleaning up the mess of it all with every break in your heart. And that’s life. It can feel embarrassing, but it’s more universal than we all think. Especially when we’re in the midst of feeling so much so deeply.
It’s heartbreaking. It’s bittersweet. And it’s one hell of a nostalgic country sound.
My top three songs from 29 are: “29”, “Day One”, and “Messy”.