Album Review: Tenille Townes - “Masquerades”

We check out the latest release from the rising star behind the song "When's It Gonna Happen."

There’s not another vocalist like Tenille Townes in country music. With her highly-introspective lyrics, Townes, a native of Grand Prairie, Alberta in Canada, has grown up in the Canadian country music world’s eyes as she’s released several albums and EPs prior to the release of Masquerades, including 2020’s The Lemonade Stand. Masquerades is Tenille's follow-up EP and the lead single, “When’s It Gonna Happen,” became her sixth Top 10 hit on the Canadian Country radio charts. The production on the album is handled largely by collaborators she writes with or has written with Alex Hope handling two tracks (“When You Need It” & “Villain In Me”), Pete Good two others (“When’s It Gonna Happen” & “Same Road Home”), Townes and Jaxon Hargrove one (“Shared Walls”) with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk handling production on the closing track “Light In Your Eyes.” While such diverse producers might sink most albums, with the singular talent that Tenille Townes is, she serves as the thread which ties everything together.

The self-reflective “Villain In Me,” co-written with Alex Hope, is actually about how we’re our own worst critics, even when our Instagram pages may be full of sunshine and roses for the public to see. It’s a stark reminder that just because someone has put on a “mask” doesn’t mean they’re not dealing with things quietly or in a battle with themselves. It’s a stunning song, one that is largely acoustic and showcases just how well Townes is at emoting and is the kind of song that songwriters pull out at The Bluebird Cafe when in a writer’s round. There are a couple of duets on this record, “Shared Walls” with BRELAND and “When You Need It” with Wrabel. Both show different dynamics of Townes modern country music sounds, the former a song about neighbors who help each other, even if it’s only the “hey, I’m here if you need me” kind of help. The latter is a slow-burning ballad about being a shoulder to cry on when your friend needs you. It’s another song (like “Villain”) which showcases an artist unafraid to take on the darkness from inside and share it with the world so in a way, these songs are much like “When You Need It,” itself is. Something that’ll be there to help you get through the bad things in the world.

Co-written with Dan Wilson, the Grammy winner co-writer for stars like The Chicks, Chris Stapleton and Adele, “The Sound of Being Alone” also benefits from Wilson’s production and it brings a song which could crossover to other music playlists and charts if released. The moody rocker (also co-written with Maggie Chapman) is yet another one where Townes is singing about loneliness or emotions, this one about not finding one to spend your life with. It’s more allegorical but the whole production is moody with a sing-a-long vibe as we ALL have felt that emotion. “Same Road Home” has a mainstream country radio vibe to it where Townes sings detailed lyrics with anthemic production and melody about the need to feel connection while on a journey to “the same road home.”

The EP closes out with “Light In Your Eyes” and much like Tashian and Fitchuk’s production for Brett Eldredge and Kacey Musgraves, there’s a vibe to the song, a soaked in the seventies AM radio vibe and it works great as a closer to Masquerades, another step in Tenille Townes move towards stardom as her own singular country artist. There are definitely outside sounds pulled into the music found on Masquerades but it all works in the modern country music world where there are fewer and fewer boundaries to bust through on the way to the top.