Country Jukebox Jury LP: Chapel Hart – Glory Days

What a fab few years this Mississippi trio have had. Chapel Hart appeared on America’s Got Talent, with their golden buzzer audition helping to raise a profile which was already rising thanks to support from CMT. Their TV success meant they couldn’t come over to the UK last year, and their public profile was such that they got to play the Opry last September. They also finished in the top 5 of the TV show and performed in the Grand Final with Darius Rucker. Weeks after both this and their second Opry appearance, singer Danica had surgery on her vocal cords.

It is handy for them that country music, as I keep saying, needs to adapt to the current era or face irrelevance but, obviously, this is not mere tokenism. More interestingly, the day this album launches, Chapel Hart are playing a show in Los Angeles, although they have been on the road most of the year bedding in tracks from this third album, released independently.

The British equivalent of American Pride (‘hold hands and step aside!’) would get nowhere near Britain’s Got Talent. The trio sang their anthem on national television in their audition and will thus probably sing it at every show for the rest of their career. I hope they use their platform to change the country for the better, because there’s not a great deal of pride coming out of the States aside from Chapel Hart themselves.

With soft vocalised ‘oohs’ from Devynn and Treauna, the opening track Glory Days sounds an awful lot like country music in the 1990s. The first line of Fam Damily (‘we’re all a little messed up’) is about surviving family life in the 1990s. Perfect for Me was written with Leslie Satcher, who was an A-List writer back in the decade that ran between 1990 and 1999. Danica’s vocals blast out like Jo Dee Messina’s, who was a star in the 1990s, and there’s prominent fiddle on many tracks, like that decade’s finest tracks.

All your favourite country song motifs are here: drinking songs (the tremendously hooky Dear Tequila), heartbreak ballads (Love in Letting Go) and tunes about missing your old crew while out on the road (Home Is Where The Hart Is – yep, it’s a pun). And you can bet there’s a song about trucks too: This Girl Likes Fords has the chuggy feel of a Kenny Chesney stadium anthem and is sung with charm and elan.

There’s a reminiscin’ toe-tapper called If You Ain’t Wearin’ Boots that celebrates (‘that simple kind of life’) and is in the same key as Follow Your Arrow (it also uses that song’s ‘if you…’ format in the verses). Redneck Fairytale is the wedding song perfect for swaying to, and Danica’s twang is backed up by a delightful few bars of pedal steel and a retro-sounding guitar solo.

To close, having already spun a song off Jolene, Chapel Hart followed Loretta Lynn’s recommendation to update Fist City, which has the album’s finest arrangement and will be a highlight of their live set. They do it in a far better way than Cole Swindell merely rewrote Heads Carolina Tails California, except they don’t have a major label behind them so they had to rely on Simon Cowell to boost their career.

Nonetheless, the trio celebrated release by thanking people who continued ‘to inspire us to just be ourselves’. That sounds country to me.

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