Walker Hayes’ Country Stuff plays out like the tale of two artistic personas. On the one hand, there is Hayes’ silly and lighthearted side. Then there’s his undeniably serious music. Both these seemingly incompatible storyboards are somehow expressed on this brief, six-song EP.
The project opens with “Country Stuff” (featuring Jake Owen) and “Fancy Like.” Both songs incorporate Southern stereotypes, and lyrically read like a group of guys drinking a few beers and shooting the bull together. The latter, the Billboard Hot 100 Top 5 hit “Fancy Like,” may offend some Southerners because his idea of fancy (dinner at Applebees, for instance) doesn’t exactly do more cosmopolitan country people any favors.
With his last two tracks, though, Hayes completely drops the class clown persona. “What If We Did,” which nicely combines Hayes singing with Carly Pearce’s distinctive vibrato, is very much an adult love song. He closes with “Briefcase,” which pairs Hayes with Lori McKenna on an acoustic, melancholy family memory song. Through it, Hayes sadly remembers how, whenever his father picked up his briefcase, this meant he’d be leaving on a business trip. The song also finds Hayes recognizing just how much he’s now career driven, like his father.
Some have accused Walker Hayes of doing a cash grab because of his Tik Tok dance move success with “Fancy Like.” However, in this shaky post-pandemic music business, can we really begrudge the guy for finding a unique way to market country music? Anyhow, whether he’s getting silly, getting his dance on or being serious, Walker Hayes is never less than entertaining with his new take on Country Stuff.