THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE A gorgeous, sweet portrait of small-town America and simpler times.
Natalie Hemby has spent most of her career helping others tell their stories.
One of Nashville’s most in-demand songwriters, she co-wrote Miranda Lambert’s “Only Prettier,” Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” as well as songs for Kelly Clarkson, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and others. But when it came time for Hemby’s debut album “Puxico” (GetWrucke Productions), the inspiration was all her own — the small town of Puxico, Missouri, where her grandfather grew up and where she spent plenty of time.
Hemby’s brand of Americana is sweeter than most of her cohorts. The gorgeous “Ferris Wheel” shows off her delicate voice, balanced simply by pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, as she uses the amusement park ride as a symbol and a metaphor. “Time Honored Tradition” shows how her vocals can lead something more rocking, even as she champions the importance of listening. But it’s Hemby’s storytelling that shines brightest on “Puxico,” which also provides the soundtrack to her documentary about the small town.
“Lovers on Display” spends plenty of time on the details of a young romance, riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, marching bands and holding hands. And it’s that lyrical voice that will make Hemby an artist to watch.