Unless you knew, you‘d readily believe Britt was born and bred in the Tennessee foothills, but, while she spent six years in Nashville, she does, in fact, come from Newcastle near Sydney, to which end, given the sound of her voice and music, you might consider her an Australian Dolly Parton. Self-penned, Home Truths is her ninth album, her first to be released independently in over twenty years and, quite frankly, while it thankfully eschews the assembly line Nashville sheen, has everything you could want from a mainstream country album with all the staple requirements of the genre’s songs about drinking, cheating, mothers, and country music itself.
Pretty much all of the above are crammed into the opening cut, ‘I Am A Country Song’, a fiddle-led number about mumma and daddy raising her on country music and of a string of bad relationships with a chorus that both namechecks and identifies her with Hank and George, who would surely understand.
Living your life through the lens of country music continues with the twangy, bouncy honky tonk dance floor friendly ‘Fav’rit Song’, recalling her earliest memory of riding in daddy’s car to a football game and first hearing country music on the radio, the start a lifelong love affair that can cheer you up when you’re down, join in when you’re happy and even help you judge someone by what they think of it.
There’s a brief digression for the plangent guitars and walking beat title track, though essentially it’s about the same straight talking attitude about love and life, but then we’re back to ‘Country Fan’, a duet with Lee Kernaghan in which she’s the artist thanking her fans for sticking with her and he’s the fan declaring how she must have read his diary captured what he was feeling in her songs and is always there for him.
Easy on the ear, radio friendly country, ‘Make A Diamond’ is an upbeat number about how what we experience makes us what we are and that, while life may be tough and deceptive (“I was told that my path was true and that’s all I’d need to know/And all the while I had knife stuck in my back”), the light will shine through, basically, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Then it’s on to the mama songs. First up being ‘Gonna Be Mumma’, which is, as you might imagine, about the life of the everyday housewife and mother working for man and the kids, but how she wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s unlikely to be taken up as an anthem of female emancipation anytime soon. It’s followed by the equally directly titled ‘Mother’, a heartfelt ballad love letter from daughter to mother thanking her for all she’s, apologising for times when she upset her with her words or lifestyle choices. It was, naturally, written as a Mother’s Day gift.
And, staying in that reflective mood, it’s followed by the equally self-explanatory titled swaggering punch the sky country rock ‘Me’ which looks back on her sometimes crazy life and career (“I used to party with the A list/Was the greatest, I was shameless/Caught up in the moment of the bright lights”) before realising she had to be true to herself (“I said fuck it, I don’t wanna be famous/And faceless/Without my mess/No, I don’t wanna be a shooting star/With a new guitar hiding my old scars. Just to ride in fast cars”).
She’s joined by Jim Lauderdale on ‘Hard To Love’, which is a stand by your man even though he can be bitter as a lemon one moment and sweet as apple pie the next kind of song, hitting old school and pedal steel and banjo notes for the very Parton-like, and arguably the album’s stand out track, ‘Original Sin’, an apple falling not far from the family tree where she sings “They say I look just like her/The only love I’ve known is full of fire”, declaring “I’m my mother’s daughter”, tinged with the emotional complexity that they wanted a son.
It ends with first the ticking percussion of ‘New Dawn’, a self-questioning and reaching out number that, at a push, could be seen as a response to 2020 America but is more about feeling lost in herself. Either way, to be honest, it feels like a bit of a filler. But it ends on good form with the fiddle friendly, train rhythm clack of ‘Long Way Round’, her voice soaring on the infectious refrain about “what goes up must come down”, but in a good way and that “what I had I’ll do without”, reaching not for the stars but finding contentment on the ground, because “I’ve been doing things the wrong way round”.
This review may sound somewhat cynical at times and yes Home Truths can be accused of trading in well-worn country clichés, but it’s also open and honest in the home truths it both offers and accepts, it’s full of catchy melodies and Britt’s voice is a constant pleasure to listen too. And, sometimes, that’s enough.
Artist’s website: www.catherinebritt.com
‘Fav’rit Song’ – official video: