Lainey Wilson’s ‘Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin” Blends Juke Joint Moods With Formative Emotion
On Sayin' What I'm Thinkin', Lainey Wilson positions herself as a sweet Southern girl who's not afraid to get the good kind of nasty. Producer Jay Joyce helps with the latter, while a mix of Nashville's heralded and hottest songwriters add the metaphorical pleases and "Yes ma'ams."
Debut albums are most often good for one thing. They may introduce a new songwriter (a la Tenille Townes) or a premiere vocalist (Ingrid Andress) or someone with a real affinity for country music's rock edges (Tucker Beathard). Rare is the kind of triple threat that Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' becomes over 12 songs. For contrast, compare "Small Town Girl" to the closer, "Sayin' What I'm Thinkin'."
Wilson works a juke joint riff to set a mood for her warning to anyone who thinks they know small-town girls. At the second chorus, the rocker becomes something more anthemic — electric guitar spins like a tornado across the remainder of her vocals, at times covering the raw energy that guides her.
At the other end, a spent country singer drops her filter for the kind of vulnerable conversation you hope to not have with a lover. Joyce pulls back, too — there's little more than a white line acoustic guitar and brush percussion driving this songwriter's showcase. Wilson's vocals become raspy, like she spent a few sleepless nights crying before spilling her guts at the recording studio. We don't often hear this kind of method acting from a rookie.
You'll hear shades of artists Joyce has worked with throughout Sayin' What I'm Thinkin', an album poised to be the best debut of 2021, even if Wilson never has a radio hit ("Things a Man Oughta Know" is her current single). Brothers Osborne-like guitar riffs ("Straight Up Sideways") are most obvious, but "Pipe" recalls Miranda Lambert's special Southern swagger.
If you are a fan of Ashley Monroe's jaded lilt, you'll love the cinematic "Rolling Stone."
"Think you're the one that's gonna turn me around / Give me a ring and settle me down / Got a little hold on me, don't get me wrong / But baby my heart runs wild and free / You gotta know before you fall for me / Like a feather in the wind, I could be gone / You don't give a rock to a rolling stone," she sings.
Comparisons are a bit cheap, if necessary to understand what this album brings. They're not used to suggest Wilson's crafted a sort of hipster Frankenstein, even if one style or another is sure to turn off a fan of the rest somewhere along the way. They're used to say the project is dynamic and to offer some base for conclusions.
"Authentic" is a one-word review of Sayin' What I'm Thinkin', an album that's intentionally frayed at the edges. Beyond writing and recording songs that satisfy country music fans, she succeeds at introducing her whole self through the music. By the end, you kind of just want to go grab a beer with her, but just one — because it seems likely she'll drink you under the table.