For multiple reasons, Far From Home is a disappointing sophomore effort from Aubrie Sellers.
As the old cliché goes, children of famous country artists don’t have it as easy as we may think (and yes, I’ve repeated that line already).
Aubrie Sellers is a pronounced example of that cliché, who, unlike her mother, Lee Ann Womack, is pushing “garage country” over straight-laced traditionalism, a fact made clear by her 2016 debut album, New City Blues. And yes, in these cases it’s always best to just make the passing familial reference and move on, but there’s a similar situation at play here. Country radio never took too kindly to Womack’s own material after “I Hope You Dance,” and it didn’t take too kindly to any single off Sellers’ debut either, with both artists ultimately looking to craft their own sound on their own terms.
As other artists have proved, though, country radio is not the only way to measure success – especially in 2020 – meaning Sellers only looked to double down on her sound with Far From Home, consequences be damned. But while New City Blues was a great listen in spite of its messiness, for multiple reasons, Far From Home isn’t cutting to the bone in nearly the same way.
The thing about “garage country,” too, is that, in all honesty, it was a sound that producer Frank Liddell and Sellers had trouble honing in on New City Blues; brash and boisterous, yet also messy and uneven. Aside from a few moments, Far From Home is somewhat of a shift away from the braying tendencies of that album in favor of more atmospheric tones. The problem is that, when the atmosphere feels forced from heavy doses of reverb and distortion on everything from the guitars to Sellers’ vocals, it ultimately creates a wall of sound where nothing interesting happens and the atmosphere gets quashed, rather than soars. It’d be one thing if the grooves could do some heavy lifting like on “One Town’s Trash,” but for the most part that low-end support just ends up buried in the mix. Instead, what we get are curdled, fuzzed-out guitar tones that, to be blunt, sound horrible.
It also doesn’t help that this record feels like an exercise in tonal imbalance, where the anxiety-riddled “Worried Mind” plods at a snail’s pace, as does “Going Places,” and where the Del McCoury cover of “My Love Will Not Change,” while cool to see, is one of many victims of clunky production. Even the ballads like the title track and “Run” have nothing much going for them outside of a blob of reverb trying its best to compliment the subject matter. And that’s outside of whatever the barrage of sounds introducing “Glad” or ending “Troublemaker” are going for. It’s all a mess, really; but that’s not to say there aren’t some moments that work. “Drag You Down” at least has a fairly decent groove to it, and the interplay of the backing singers makes for a fairly fun listen; and “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet” is likely the one song here that showcases Sellers’ voice in a positive light. She’s a distinct, charismatic singer, and when given the chance to shine without the production weighing her down, she’s able to tap into an emotive presence well. And on a track that requires a tricky emotional balance to pull off the insecurities of a young love like this, she sounds excellent. “One Town’s Trash” is also a moment where the guitars aren’t completely reverb-saturated and – surprise, surprise – pull off that soaring atmospheric high so much better because of it.
Sadly, though, for as much as the production is to blame for this album’s messiness, the lyricism is also noticeably weaker. Sure, there’s some fairly good stories that go somewhere, like on the aforementioned “One Town’s Trash” or “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet.” But for the most part, the content feels one-dimensional, making a very basic point while going nowhere with it: “Lucky Charm” and “Under The Sun” are decent, but the comparisons of love to pure “luck” feel awkward (don’t you want love to be genuine?), and the latter track is just a list of things she finds second-best to her lover; again, not bad, just not interesting. “Worried Mind” is about crumbling under the weight of anxiety, though one would only know that from reading about it, rather than hearing the actual song; “Going Places” has her … going places … for some unexplained reason; and “Troublemaker” is fine, but its basic approach of indulging in being bad is at least pulled off with more personality on “Drag You Down,” where the groove is sharper, the backing vocalists add presence, and there’s something seedy thinking about how these two lovers are going down in a blaze of glory, especially when Sellers is adept at handling that mischievous role.
The thing is, when listening through Far From Home, there’s a lot of heart behind it, as evidenced by the title track, “Worried Mind,” and “Run,” even if I wouldn’t signal any of those out as highlights. The problem is in the execution, where the choice to lean more heavily on atmosphere for a more serious presence backfires from being bogged down in reverb. And when the moments that try to “rock out” end up feeling much stiffer and clunkier than they need to be, it’s easy to see the good intentions behind Far From Home, but it’s an overall disappointing sophomore effort for Sellers.
(Very light 6/10)
- Favorite tracks: “One Town’s Trash,” “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet,” “Drag You Down”
- Least favorite track: “Glad”