The short version: Kylie Rae Harris comes into her own on her newest self-titled EP, and the only disappointing thing about it is it’s not a full-length album.
- Favorite tracks: “Twenty Years From Now,” “Missouri,” “Don’t Let The Walls Fall Yet”
- Least favorite track: “Big Ol’ Heartache”
- Rating: 7/10
The long version: For as much as country music loves its rebel-rousing, an important element to note is that it usually come with its consequences.
For Texas-based singer-songwriter Kylie Rae Harris, most of her experiences leading up to her newest self-titled EP dealt with themes of growing up and taking responsibility for her actions. Once fellow critics I respect started touting her name around, I figured the concept was interesting enough to check out her latest project.
While my eventual criticism with this project will essentially boil down to the fact that it isn’t a full-length album, Harris’ self-titled EP is well worth a listen and showcases a bright young talent. Vocally, I’m reminded of a lower-register Jo Dee Messina with more of a smokier edge. Of course, this translates well on the moodier, reflective “Missouri,” but there’s also a sultriness to her voice that blends well against the sensual, softer atmosphere of “Don’t Let The Walls Fall Yet.” And then there’s the absolutely heartbreaking “Twenty Years From Now,” but we’ll certainly address that track more later.
In terms of Harris’ presentation and style, this sounds like country music with enough of a modern edge to it to keep it accessible while simultaneously keeping it firmly planted in country music. The steel guitar is present, but the electric guitars have more of a polished bite to them. The reliance on softer percussion and brighter, delicate tones also allows for some beautiful melodies to shine through on “Missouri” and “Don’t Let The Walls Fall Yet.”
But the real selling point with this EP is the content. Overall, on her self-titled EP, Harris is forced to grow up and take responsibility for herself. This mostly comes through in the form of broken relationships, like how on “Missouri” she’s forced to confront her own implications in the fallout between her and her significant other. And that just leads to her messing up and falling in love with the wrong guy on “What The Heart Wants” and “Big Ol’ Heartache” only for her to have to hope she doesn’t make the same mistakes again on “Don’t Let The Walls Fall Yet.” You can’t always just disappear and hope that everything solves itself like she learns as an adult on “Run Away.”
There’s an independent spirit to the project, but it never comes at the cost of being centered solely around her story. The album’s main lessons learned come to a spearhead on the heartbreaking closer, “Twenty Years From Now.” Here, Harris is forced to not only take care of herself and escape an abusive relationship, but also to make a huge decision that affects their child by taking off with said child. If anything, you see the theme of the EP come full circle. Harris’ main method of coping during hard times as a child was to run away with her teddy bear, and now her child is forced to find their own method of coping all while not fully realizing the implications it carries for Harris.
That’s what I like most about Harris’ writing style – she’s able to write from an empathetic viewpoint because she knows she’s also made mistakes before. The messed-up father figure isn’t looked upon as a sinister figure, but rather someone who needs to fight his own battles, just as Harris did. She also equally questions how much she’s to blame for the ugly falling out on “Missouri.”
Of course, this interesting concept is mostly relegated to the perspective of relationship tracks, so after awhile, it can start to grow stale. “What The Heart Wants” and “Big Ol’ Heartache” aren’t bad tracks, though the choruses of each track do fall flat for me. But they retread the same ground covered in other interesting ways on this project. To reiterate a previous point too, it would have been great to explore this perspective as a full length-project, as it feel like it ends before it truly takes off.
Overall though, you have to critique the project you hear rather than the one you want, so in terms of that, this EP is definitely a solid listen. Harris’ voice is rich and captivating, and between cuts like “Missouri” and “Twenty Years From Now,” I wouldn’t be surprised if these end up challenging for some of my favorite songs of the year when it comes time. At any rate, Harris is an excellent writer who’s able to weave in her perspective and make it relatable to all of us, and that’s worth checking out indeed.