Country music holds a promise of a sort of idyllic traditionalism, even in its most progressive forms. The genre implicitly promises that there is a place where you will find that one person who will complete you and build a peaceful life together in the middle of nowhere. But in reality, life continues to get in your way. The best country lives in the tension between those ideas, between the life you should want and the world that gives you so many other options, and then snatch a few cruelly.
And sometimes you just have to scream and cry and bang your fists and maybe shoot a gun in the air. Enter the “Hey, fuck you, buddy!!” in. song.
Typically (but not exclusively) recorded by women, the “Hey, fuck you, buddy!!” song is about what happens when some jerk breaks your heart and then runs off to be with someone else. As you watch their truck disappear into the distance, yell, “Hey, fuck you, buddy!!” But that’s about all you can do.
Of course, many of these songs are about divorce. From sad and lonely classics like Tammy Wynette’s “DIVORCE” and Dolly Parton’s “Starting Over Again” to more fiery tracks like Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Breadwinner”, a woman’s definition of herself after she ceases to be a woman to be. an evergreen theme in the country (and popular art in general).
And Now You Can (And Should!) Add Carly Pearce’s 2021 Album 29: Written in Stone to the list. An entire album of kiss-off anthems inspired by a marriage that lasted less than a year, it marks a giant leap forward for one of country music’s most exciting young stars. Hopefully it helps her cross over to an audience that doesn’t normally listen to country. That audience might love Pearce’s dry, wry take on a complete and utter heartbreak.
Pearce married compatriot Michael Ray in October 2019, but their marriage was over less than a year later, with Pearce officially filing for divorce in June 2020. The title of 29: Written in Stonethen refers to the age at which Pearce began and dissolved her marriage. But it also speaks to her anxiety around her approaching 30s and her attempts to find a way forward in music after the death of her longtime producer Busbee in 2019, just weeks before her wedding.
It’s an album that looks back—to Pearce’s parents’ marriage and to her country music ancestors like Loretta Lynn—and forward, to what Pearce might have learned from her divorce that will bring her to future relationships. It is rightly angry in some places, rightly sad in others, and rightly relieved in others. It’s an album written by someone who didn’t expect her relationship to end so quickly, but who’s also willing to admit that it’s probably a good thing it ended before she and her ex could get further entangled in their lives.
The opening track, “Diamondback”, sums up what listeners can expect from the album. The title evokes the deadly rattlesnake, but the song splits that word in half, with Pearce assuring her ex that he can have whatever he wants, but he’ll “never get that diamond back.” That song and others on the album have a great “getting drunk at a dive bar with your friends after a bad breakup” energy.
Pearce balances them with plaintive ballads, such as the album’s second track, “What He Didn’t Do.” In that song, she seemingly explains to the imaginary friends gathered at the dive bar why her marriage ended, not by talking about what her ex did to break her heart, but by all the little things he didn’t do that left her feeling disappointed. felt . And yet, even if she hesitates when asked to give all the gory details, she assures us, “We both know I can drive him out of this town. That’s just dirty laundry; I don’t have to carry the truth.”
It’s easy to draw comparisons between Pearce and Musgraves. Both regularly throw out lyrics that are filled with evocative imagery, emotional complexity, and winking puns. Pearce, for example, uses the title of her hit song “Next Girl” to both signify her ex’s next flirt and to warn that new flirt: “I know what happens next, girl.”
29: Written in Stone has sharpened the comparisons even more, as Musgraves also released an album about her divorce last year, just a week before Pearce’s album came out. Musgraves’s crossed with stars arrived with a fleet of expectations it couldn’t live up to, and its harsh turn away from a pure country song left many in Musgraves’ fanbase disgruntled. (I actually really liked the album.)
Basically, this album knows that every relationship that ends deserves at least a few “Hey, fuck you, buddy!!” songs. 29: Written in Stone has more than enough for all your friends to scream with at the bar, but it also has a fair share of heartbroken wisdom for when the last call has come in and you realize your loved one isn’t coming back.
29: Written in Stone could speak to those who want a purer country, about what it means to have something you thought would last a lifetime. Like Musgraves, Pearce is willing to take the blame for the way she abandoned her marriage, but where Musgraves could indulge in those ideas too much, as if she had slipped into self-loathing, Pearce is only too happy to throw dirt. dug on her ex’s grave herself.
29: Written in Stone is available on all major music streaming platforms. Physical editions are also available on CD and vinyl.