In a time when country music seems to be as wide open a genre as it ever was, Walker Hayes comes busting through the doors with his debut album boom., a lean ten track album that clocks in at just over 31 minutes of time. Lead single “You Broke Up With Me” is already a certified hit (it’s Gold) and while there’s nothing else quite like it on boom., there are other songs that could have the talented Walker Hayes breaking out. And if he does break out, it’ll be because the audience of mainstream country radio has connected to Walker Hayes on a personal level as boom. is nothing if not personal. Take “Beautiful,” a self-written, autobiographical song about his relationship with his now wife. “Halloween,” which features co-writer Nicolle Gaylon singing the chorus, is an ear-pleasing tune which is ALSO about Walker’s wife Laney and how she made him feel like he could step out from behind the mask and costumes he fronted with in order to be himself.
“Dollar Store” is basically a country “Thrift Shop” and that’s a compliment. It’s silly fun and not meant to be serious. At all. As a human being who has been around family with addition problems (and, let’s face it, humans are addicted to one thing or another, its just that some addictions aren’t as strong as others), I can relate to “Beer in the Fridge.” As someone who rarely buys alcohol for his home (and has one beer in the fridge as I type this review, a beer that’s been there for months), I relate to the song on that level. It’s a raw, honest song and exactly what county music has always been about. “Prescriptions” has a funky ‘stank’ to it and may be the most ‘pop’ song on a very pop inspired album but there’s just something about it.
I know I said there was a lot of personal stories on boom. and two last ones to mention here are “Beckett” and “Craig.” Songs named after and about people from Walker Hayes’ life. Beckett is one of Walker’s children (he has enough to field a basketball team) and Craig is a man who helped Walker when he was at his lowest point of his career (when he lost the first record deal and was struggling to make ends meet). In “Craig,” that relationship and inspirational story is laid bare in a song which again finds Walker Hayes getting all confessional. It’s a relatable and likable song and is a song I could see finding an audience on contemporary Christian radio. “Beckett,” is about young children and how they’re not prejudice and everything is usually a fun time to them. Innocent. If anything, it’s a reminder to be who we are and to enjoy our ride on earth and that everything, including pressures of adulthood, aren’t worth stressing too much over.
With just ten songs, Walker Hayes has delivered an album full of clever lyrics and melodies that are outside of what’s typically seen in country music. While that may be enough for some to discount the merits of boom. as a country music album, I just think it’s well-made, good music. And in a world where I’m trying to be more like “Beckett,” that’s all I need to enjoy one of country music’s most interesting (and final) releases of 2017.