Country Jukebox Jury LP: Priscilla Block – Welcome to the Block Party

There’s little point moaning about how Walker Hayes has gotten more famous from a dance routine than for any of his fine poppy country songs. That’s the way the market goes at the moment.

Priscilla Block waited tables, sat for people’s dogs, cleaned people’s houses and played open mics for years to become an overnight success thanks to Just About Over You. The song became her breakout smash after getting caught up in an algorithm, which meant she was quickly snapped up by Mercury Nashville to make them, and her, some money. Now we’ve got 11 tracks that she’ll perform to thousands of people in the next year, to make Mercury Nashville some money and her own hard work pay off.

Her audience will look like her, probably sound like her and will likely have discovered her on a Chinese app that has driven music industry eyeballs to it. The appearance of this album is inevitable, so it is interesting to see how Priscilla makes sure she catches her moment and establishes her brand in a market where about one female singer makes it to public prominence every year.

In 2021 Priscilla (or Cilla to her friends) put out a six-track EP which included the big smash and tunes about heartbreak. Wish You Were The Whiskey, Heels In Hand and the gossipy I Bet You Wanna Know all cross over from the EP to make the album. All are radio-friendly unit shifters which were written with Priscilla’s friend Sarah Jones.

Just About Over You appears on the back half of the album, rather than track two or three, because streaming doesn’t need albums to be front-loaded with the hits. It is followed by Peaked In High School, which brings the album to a close. That song is basically Fat and Famous by Ashley McBryde updated for the age of oversharing. It is dedicated ‘to all the girls who made me cry’. You go, girlfriend! Yaaas.

Talking of self-expression, Thick Thighs appears in a new version and it is less funny than it was when I first heard it. Indeed, Priscilla told the New York Times that her dream is a CMT Crossroads show with Lizzo. For those who haven’t seen a picture of Priscilla, it’s the same shtick which is still novel in a pop-country world where Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris appear in very short shorts to sell their music.

The new single My Bar is a country tune which wards off an ex because Priscilla has her own territory. The humungous drum track makes it perfect country radio fodder and her vocal is authentically southern. The other brand new tracks include a duet with Hillary Lindsey called I Know A Girl, which sounds like a writers’ room therapy session turned into a three-minute introspective ballad: ‘A girl who finally learned to love herself’ is Hallmark Country.

The pair wrote the song with David Garcia. This must have been the result of a phone call from the record label boss who realised that the presence of Carrie Underwood’s big two collaborators can beef up an album which includes a song about muffin tops. I’ve Gotten Good was written with Phil Barton and Hillary’s fellow Love Junkie Liz Rose, which gives an adult contemporary feel to yet another song about moving on from a relationship. This album should come with a free bottle of wine.

Like A Boy will likewise chime with any listener who has been through a breakup, as Priscilla gets called ‘moody’ by her partner and soundtracks it with fat piano chords. As on Heels In Hand, she stretches out syllables across several beats of a bar. Priscilla sticks to the theme on Ever Since You Left (‘I’m feeling better, more together’), which scrubs out one swear word in the second verse but leaves in ‘kiss me ass’ cos that’s just the kind of gal Priscilla is!!

The album opens with a procession of voices saying her name, including Bobby Bones introducing her on the Grand Old Opry TV programme. Priscilla Block was a household name before she released an album or a major-label EP. But attention only gets you so far. Priscilla has wanted this attention ever since she moved to Nashville from North Carolina in 2014 and, eight years on, she finally has her own full-length album. I hope she gets a second too.

Like the aforementioned Ashley McBryde, Priscilla will, barring a catastrophe, be over in the UK for Country2Country. She will, I think gain the same number of fans that Ashley gained when she came over in 2018 to play the side stages.

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