Maren Morris – Hero

12814145_10153856275331598_3636855737769304232_nIt’s always refreshing to see talented females break through the country radio barrier. There’s still a long way to go, but it looks like we finally have a new artist paving the way for others to follow. Maren Morris stormed onto the scene earlier this year with her smash hit single ‘My Church’, a top 10 hit on country radio, selling over 500,000 copies. She also made a number of appearances at C2C this year; if you were lucky enough to see her, it was clear that she was an artist going places. Intricate, clever song writing and superb stage presence.

Now, we have a full-length album titled ‘Hero’, which is actually Maren’s fourth album but the first to gain any real exposure. Of course, the album features the totally anthemic ‘My Church’, as well as three other tracks from her self-titled EP – ‘80’s Mercedes’, ‘Drunk Girls Don’t Cry’ and ‘I Wish I Was’. The latter has always been a personal favourite; a gorgeous depiction of feeling inadequate for somebody. “You’re looking for true love and I’m not the one…but I wish, oh I wish I was”.

But you’ve heard those before, right? Let’s delve into some of the new tracks. The album kicks off with ‘Sugar’, a catchy, infectious track with real attitude in the verses that hits you right from the off. Maren has that golden ingredient – being able to get you singing along from the very first listen. This is an instant favourite, don’t be surprised to see it released as a single.

The view of some people might be that Maren isn’t necessarily ‘country’. A valid opinion. ‘Rich’ wouldn’t be out of place on the pop charts, neither would the majority of the album in all honesty, but Maren certainly isn’t alone in that respect. She has her own distinctive style, re-inventing country music and creating a sound that appeals to the masses.

‘Rich’ is a quirky, fun sing-a-long track based on an “If I had a dollar” kind of relationship. It’s cleverly written with a humorous, care-free approach to the situation. Tailor made for Maren’s live show, it’s already a fan favourite and one she’ll surely be playing on Keith Urban’s ‘Ripcord’ Tour this summer. It’s not too dissimilar to Little Big Town’s ‘Painkiller’ with the “La a a a a dee daaaa” bit….you’ll know what I mean!

‘I Could Use A Love Song’ is the stand-out, written with Jimmy Robbins (Blake Shelton – ‘Sure Be Cool If You Did’, David Nail – ‘Whatever She’s Got’) and Laura Veltz (Eli Young Band – ‘Drunk Last Night’). It’s stunning. When these three got together, did you ever expect anything else? “I could use a love song that takes me back just like that when it comes on…to a time when I wouldn’t roll my eyes at a guy and a girl make it work in a world that for me so far just seems to go so wrong”. This is one of the more subtle tracks and definitely the most conventional ‘country’ song on offer, a welcome break from the pop-infused sounds. It’s very atmospheric and delivered with such emotion; a real showcase of Maren’s incredible talent.

Kelly Clarkson fans might recognise ‘Second Wind’, which was featured on Kelly’s ‘Piece By Piece’ album earlier this year. Maren wrote the track, and she has recorded her own version which is absolutely stunning. An inspiring track about rising above your doubters, proving them wrong and catching that ‘second wind’. “You can hate me, underestimate me, do what you do ’cause what you do don’t phase me. Just when you think I’m at the end, any second I’mma catch my second wind”. She performed this at The Borderline in March and it was the highlight of the show.

One word to describe this album – innovative. Maren’s doing it her own way and it’s proving to be successful; there’s a real empowering feeling in her song writing that will no doubt inspire female writers. Yes, it’s heavily synthesised. Yes, it’s very much on the country boundaries. But let’s look at this as an individual project, and what you will find is a lesson in quality song writing and a collection of songs that will no doubt bring a new wave of fans into the genre.