BlueSky Bullet Points: October 6, 2023

Eight new albums are reviewed in this batch, with the best efforts courtesy of Roberta Lea, Willie Nelson, and Wilco.

Walker Hayes

New Money

Best writing advice I ever received, courtesy of P.F. Kluge: “Irony is corrosive.”

Who cares if there’s some inventive production and a couple of clever turns of phrase when your whole vibe is that it’s all a smug piss-take, and you punch down as much as you punch up?


Jade Eagleson

Do it Anyway

In the ongoing 90s revival, here’s the new Paul Brandt in literally every way. Which is to say it’s largely fine, other than a stultifying cover of One Direction’s “Steal My Girl” that is beyond my capacity for descriptions of horror.

Roberta Lea

Too Much of a Woman

A debut album of clear-eyed vision that leans hard into the idea, both lyrically and aesthetically, that an individual can contain multitudes and still know exactly who they are. There is real subversive power in the way Lea plays up her drawl, too.


Dustin Lynch

Killed the Cowboy

Music Row at its absolute worst, this is the sound of craven, po-faced trend-hopping by an act who’s never settled on an identity as anything more than a thin-voiced latecomer. Utterly forgettable in every way, but for the hate crime of “Chevrolet” with Jelly Roll.




Thoughtful and lovely and frequently excellent in ways that, despite being what’s supposed to be their exact target demo, I have found it hard to care about for years now. Not as experimental as some have suggested, but more-than-minor variations on their familiar themes.


Brad Paisley

Son of the Mountains: The First Four Tracks

Not a full return to form, but the closest he’s been in ages, and the title track for sure is dialed-in. Now that his A-list era is long gone, he seems committed to taking clear principled stances and setting them to decent hooks.


Dan + Shay

Bigger Houses

Hateful, garish production imagines the C-list boy bands of the aughts (BB Mak, Evan & Jaron, SoulDecision) if they’d all lost the Loudness War; they’re back w a new image, but Shay still screams like Gary LeVox (…) on songs that are never worth the bluster.

Willie Nelson


Hard to believe he’s never released a proper Bluegrass album, but better late than never. Rather than a de facto greatest hits comp, this serves as a purposefully curated reimagining of the songs from his miles-deep catalogue that truly work in this style.


  1. That Dustin Lynch album must be exceptionally bad to get a lower rating than the Walker Hayes album. I have never heard a single song from Walker Hayes that wasn’t a toxic waste fire.

  2. The Hayes album is at least something… There are some production choices that might be legitimately interesting if they weren’t backing someone who acts like it’s just so goddamn hilarious that he’s trying to rap as a middle-aged dad. It ends with a song about taking his daughter to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour that might’ve been poignant, too, if he hadn’t spent the 45 minutes prior insisting that he doesn’t really mean any of the shit he says.

    Lynch? Is like a decade into his career, and I still couldn’t tell you the title of a song of his without pulling up Wikipedia. His whole persona is the Great Value version of whatever was popular on country radio the year before he recorded his current album. This one has the indefensible Jelly Roll collab, though, so he finally has a song I’ll remember… Just for all of the worst possible reasons.

  3. All fair points, Jonathan! As far as Walker Hayes goes, just as an example, I remember people talking about the song ”AA” like it was some sort of poignant masterpiece, and I heard it and just thought, ”no, this is just more of the same trash he’s been cranking out since 2017.”

    FWIW, for anyone who’s interested, I know why it was not reviewed here (it was only announced the day before its release), but the new Mike and the Moonpies live album that dropped Friday is really good.

  4. Wow—the Roberta Lea album sure is a stunner. “Too Much of a Woman” didn’t do too much for me as a lead-off single, but it fits seamlessly among the other tracks. The album as a whole reminds me of Trisha Yearwood’s Hearts in Armor—totally serious in its investigation of very adult matters, but musically adventurous and not afraid to let the cracks show. And I can’t get enough of “Stronger This Time,” which in a just world would be a radio hit! Love the different forms of worthwhile self-care and hard work that underline Lea’s faith, and the playfulness of the production and her delivery. Thanks so much for highlighting this record; I don’t think I would’ve come to it on my own!

    • This made my day. Something Kevin and I have talked about for a long time is finding new ways throughout the year to highlight current music while we continue to emphasize a good deal of historical content, and I’m really glad to know that these microreviews are connecting with folks!

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