“Who really wants to be white as snow, the thing about black is that the dirt don’t show,” Hailey Whitters confesses in the title track of her newest LP Black Sheep. Headstrong and confident, she sarcastically blazes through snarky lyrics, unapologetically punctuating her bullet points. With an unstoppable one-two punch of angelic voice and devilish charm, Whitters bats her eyes while flipping you off in a way that could make Johnny Cash proud.
She is as charismatic as a complicated, no-bullshit girl can possibly be.
With a “middle-finger” tone in her voice and an “I do what I want” swagger in her back pocket, Whitters packs a tough, outlaw country sound for the picnic. Tracks like “Long Come To Jesus” and “City Girl” provide her with a soapbox just tall enough to project her tongue-in-cheek songwriting to anyone strong enough to stick around and listen; however, there is more to Whitters than sass and wit. There is a softer side buried beneath Whitters’ battle gear; her ability to unwind and approach her songwriting more instrospectively sweetens her demeanor.
“Late Bloomer,” for example, is a stunning coming of age song that could easily be mistaken as the younger sister to Deanna Carter’s “Strawberry Wine.” Whitters’ talent and potential as a county music superstar shine flawlessly through both the beauty and narrative of this timeless song.
Whitters again reveals her rawness at the end of the album with the honest and open “Get Around.” Reflecting on the criticisms and puncture wounds that come with being the girl who gets the call “between relations” and the struggles that come with being emotionally unavailable and closed off, Whitters puts a piece of herself in the mix, proving she’s in the same songwriting class as Kacey Musgraves, Amanda Shires, and Alison Krauss. Her vulnerability and candid approach to songwriting is commendable and unteachable.
It is also the defining element that makes Black Sheep brilliant. Accompanied by sensational songs like “Low All Afternoon” and “People Like You,” this dagger-to-the-heart of an album, without a doubt, should be a contender for best album of the year.