What country band would have the moxie to say, “Hey. ‘Jolene’ is a good song. Let’s make a sequel.”
That would be Chapel Hart.
Danica Hart. Devynn Hart. Trea Swindle. Hailing from Hart’s Chapel, Mississippi. Yes, it’s a family act. Yes, they got their start busking in good ol’ NOLA. And yes. All of that shows.
The Girls Are Back In Town is a shocking delight. Shocking to me in that, well, I’m a little bit country. And contemporary country acts I seldom have much of a use for. But, shit. This record is fun.
Starting with the aforementioned track: “You Can Have Him Jolene.” This is the kind of thing that happens and you go, why didn’t I think of that? Like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Or “sliced bread.” It may be the best thing this side of “Goodbye Earl.”
And a Dixie Chicks comparison isn’t totally out of bounds with Chapel Hart. These are strong, beautiful voices with harmonies that seem to have been assembled from within the Blue Grotto. These voices. They are at least three reasons for me to advocate that you give this a spin. Hear these melodies sync like the Judds on “Jaqui’s Song,” written for a friend who died of a lightning strike in 2016. Or, for that matter, on the inspirational “I Will Follow,” which has nothing to do with U2, for the record.
Then, there are the lyrical flourishes, as on the lovely honky-tonk ultimatum, “Tailgate Trophy,” with clever word puzzles such as “I won’t be your Friday night unless I can be the rest of your week” and the chorus “R-E-S-P-E you know the rest this ain’t no spelling test I need some TLC.”
Who comes up with that? Who so blithely references the Queen of Soul and turns it into such a home stretch?
But. If you want to really appreciate the muscle behind Chapel Hart, do not pass go, do not collect $200, point your music player to “Just Say I Love You” to appreciate the powerhouse who is Danica Hart. This gorgeous woman, this beautiful singer, she pours her heart out all over ya. Listen to this track and be not moved. If you can do that I challenge the legitimacy of your ownership of a working nervous system.
There is also a track with a ::checks notes:: professional wrestler called Mickie James. The track is “Grown Ass Woman” and is everything you assumed it would be. Every album has a weak link, this may be that of this. I’m sure it plays great in Poughkeepsie.
“I’m a grown-ass woman, ya’ll.” Seriously.
At least that is saved by “Jesus and Alcohol,” which shows the bone fides these ladies are piling up: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top opted to appear in their video. If the Billy Gibbons was a fan of these broads, then, certainly, so am I.
So is country music a fan of them as well, apparently. Chapel Hart is among the 2021 Next Women of Country designation by Country Music Television. I’m not sure what this means, or if it’s like winning an Oscar or something. But if it’s a fete, these women deserve it. “The Girls Are Back In Town” is the complete package.