Along with most of you I’m sure, I’d been looking forwards to the debut album from the insanely talented Caylee Hammack ever since the lead single “Family Tree” was released over a year ago. With several more tracks being made available since then, it was obvious that this was going to be an incredibly personal collection of songs, destined to put Caylee on the map as one of the most exciting emerging country artists around today.
Well the long wait was well worth it, and “If It Wasn’t For You” (Capitol Nashville) finally saw the light of day last Friday, an album which sees Caylee reflecting on the people who have played a role in getting her to where she is today and the experiences which have shaped her life. It is an example of country music storytelling at its very best, a journey through the highs and lows of Caylee’s life which started in small-town Georgia, saw her passing on a scholarship to study at Nashville’s prestigious Belmont University in favour of staying there in a relationship which fell apart soon afterwards (but provided fodder for the moving track/single “Small Town Hypocrite”!) and now sees her living and working in music city, collaborating with some of the genre’s best and nominated for two ACM awards.
Alongside many of Nashville’s well-established writers, Caylee co-wrote every track and delivers them with such heartfelt emotion throughout, her vocal ability is phenomenal and equally impressive and controlled whether she is belting out uptempo songs at the top of her lungs or delivering one of the more moving ballads.
Despite her age, Caylee is no stranger to the music business and her experiences made her determined to co-produce this project… as she told me in our recent interview (which you can read here https://www.bellesandgals.com/2020/07/28/chatting-with-caylee-hammack/) “my entire life things have got lost between the vocal booth and the analogue board, and it was really cool to get to work on these myself, I was able to make sure my true self never got lost in it”.
Paying homage to her idols (including Dolly and Bowie) and varied musical influences (including country, gospel, blues, rock ) there’s a lot going on sonically on practically every song, the one exception being “Gold” which is just Caylee and her acoustic guitar and who’s lyrics provide the album title… it’s a short track, which she refers to as an “interlude” and she specifically wanted to include something to contrast with everything else. Another more stripped back song on this project is possibly my favourite and is apparently getting a lot of positive feedback, with people finding it particularly relatable, and that is “Looking For A Lighter” which was written on her 23rd birthday… starting with the line “Today I turned 23, finally catching up with my old fake ID” she references the Florida ID she carried around with her in order to get work performing in bars before she was legally allowed to. It sees her rifling through a drawer full of other such items which evoke memories, and sending her on a trip down memory lane. Theres’s some very clever word play on this one too.
As she made us aware from the onset with the aforementioned lead single, she is very close to her family and as well as inspiring that particular song they play a huge part on several other tracks. The sister who gets a mention in the opening lines of “Family Tree” gets an entire song dedicated to her (no prize for guessing it’s “Sister”!!) which is one of the most poignant tracks, and apparently was particularly tough for Caylee to write as they were going through a bit of a rough patch at the time and not as close as they had been in the past. Its strong beat is complimented by some sweeping strings and lyrically it’s a real stunner. And a phrase she often heard her Father say provided the title to another incredibly moving track, “Forged In The Fire” in which Caylee tells of the devastating house fire which claimed so many of her belongings… incidentally she was on a writing retreat at the time, alongside Tenille Townes who was a great comfort to her and that’s how their close friendship began.
From one extreme to another, and Caylee really rocks out on the song inspired by her cousin, “Redhead”, a really fun track which is a homage to wild children and their parents. Delivered with punch and attitude it sees Caylee duetting with most famous redhead in country music, Reba… Caylee was scheduled to open for Reba on her 2020 tour before the year went horribly wrong.
I can’t end this piece without mentioning the other collaborative track, “Mean Something” which sees Caylee joined by two of her contemporaries and good friends Tenille Townes (who I mentioned earlier) and Ashley McBryde, their vocal styles all very different but coming together perfectly. The song has an infectious R’n’B vibe, and is written about wanting to make an impression, in particular wanting to make your family proud of you, something i am sure all three artists have already done. Just look at the fun they had in the studio together while recording this track!
This is just an overview of what is a deeply personal debut album from this exciting artist which she has poured her very being into crafting, and if you haven’t given it a listen yet I hope that I have whetted your appetite enough to check it out in its entirety.
I’m sure Caylee is itching to get back out on the road with her band, judging by the live-stream they performed on album release day (which is still available to watch on her FB page) her concerts will definitely be full of energy and emotion and I’ll be first in line when tickets go on sale.
“If It Wasn’t For You” Track Listing
1. “Just Friends” (Caylee Hammack, Aaron Raitiere, Mikey Reaves)
2. “Redhead” feat. Reba McEntire (Trent Dabbs, Caylee Hammack, Natalie Hemby)
3. “Looking For A Lighter” (Caylee Hammack, Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson)
4. “Preciatcha” (Caylee Hammack, Jordan Schmidt, Laura Veltz)
5. “Sister” (Blake Bollinger, April Geesbreght, Caylee Hammack)
6. “Just Like You” (Caylee Hammack, Blake Hubbard, Jarrod Ingram)
7. “King Size Bed” (Caylee Hammack, Thomas “Tawgs” Salter, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges)
8. “Forged In The Fire” (Thomas Finchum, Caylee Hammack, Andy Skib)
9. “Family Tree” (Caylee Hammack, Gordie Sampson, Troy Verges)
10. “Mean Something” feat. Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes (Caylee Hammack, Mikey Reaves)
11. “Small Town Hypocrite” (Caylee Hammack, Jared Scott)
12. “Gold” (Caylee Hammack)
13. “New Level Of Life” (Caylee Hammack, Aaron Raitiere, Connor Thuotte)
For more information go to cayleehammack.com