Album Review: Natalie Hemby – Puxico

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Chances are, given her small following, that if you’re reading this, you already know who Natalie Hemby is. You most likely know of her many Billboard #1 singles, recorded by superstar acts like Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, and that she most recently penned ten tracks on the ever-ambitious Miranda Lambert’s opus “The Weight of These Wings”. As the Nashvillian approaches 40, she’s been omnipresent in the US country charts for the better part of a decade, and it’s almost wasting breath to say it’s time she made a debut album.

“Puxico” is both the name of the album and the name of the Missouri town (population <1,000) which Hemby considers her second home, but almost more importantly – it’s the name of the documentary she dedicated herself to making back in 2011. It’s not where she was born, but it’s the town where, despite her big-city success, she’s still known as "George’s granddaughter". "For one week every year, the town of Puxico turns into a city." That’s Homecoming, the annual tradition now approaching a 70-year run which historically celebrated the return of soldiers from World War II. Although the feature originally intended to centre upon Homecoming, the vitality it portrays spreads far beyond it. "It’s about a man who I love so much," she says of her Grandfather, "I had to tell the world. He’s the reason I come back every year."

 Photo Credit: Kate York

The songs justify the picture. They were written sporadically across the documentary’s creation, and are a thematic accompaniment worth their salt. The project is her gift in the face of ephemerality: a common theme of the album, so effectively captured in its rustic, understated sound. The lyrics often reminisce specific moments, like on ‘Ferris Wheel’, the chorus of which ups the ante in an onomatopoetic effort to grasp the excitement of being at the top. ‘Worn’ considers the attachment of memories to the physical, and ‘Lovers On Display’ admires the treasuring of every occasion. Furthermore, she considers the abandonment of downtown ‘Cairo, IL’, which she passes through between Nashville and Puxico. “She’s still around but she is gone” – a lump in her throat considering the memories extinguished and unrecorded. There’s a dichotomy between recollections she revisits and creates while in Puxico, and the absence of anyone’s in Cairo on her return journey. Hemby’s documentary is a way of eternising personal emotions in a way that regrettably, there’s not always somebody left to. Later on she makes peace with this, because she knows that ‘when the details turn to dust … I’ll remember how you love me.” As hopefully as we cling to the particulars, what’s vital will always remain.

From the introductory “pull up a chair and listen” to the ethereal closer and highlight ‘Return’, Natalie Hemby has treated us to a timeless, ‘Penny Lane’-style insight into an oft-explored yet underappreciated phenomenon; that of the small town. Rarely has one been highlighted so excellently. There are over 16,000 towns with less than 1,000 people in the USA, and Puxico is just one of them; but Puxico is the one that you’ll go out of your way to visit, when you fall under this album’s spell.

  Track List
  1. Time Honored Tradition
  2. Lovers On Display
  3. Grand Restoration
  4. Cairo, IL
  5. Ferris Wheel
  6. Worn
  7. This Town Still Talks About You
  8. I’ll Remember How You Loved Me
  9. Return


More Information

Birthday

24th March 1977


Hometown

Nashville, TN




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About the Author

Alex

I'm Alex, 21 and from Greenwich, home of C2C! A lifetime lover and player of music, I got into Country during my early teens and I've been hooked ever since. I want to be part of the new and exciting UK Country movement, heighten exposure, and show people just how great the genre can be.