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Review: Hailey Whitters’ “Raised”

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Photo by Harper Smith

Hailey Whitters’ third album Raised, released in March of 2022, is coming up on its two year anniversary in a few months. When evaluated after years after its release, Whitters’ third effort shows itself as strong against the test of time. 

 

Raised is truly a love letter to Whitters’ hometown of Shueyville, Iowa. She discusses this most blatantly with the fifth track, Middle of America, but also explores the love of her background in a more inward manner on songs such as Big Family. With Whitters’ honest, no frills,  look-you-straight-in-the-eyes voice, one can lose but also see themselves in Whitters’ storied tale. 

 

Two songs that I feel are two sides of the same coin are Boys Back Home and Pretty Boy. Whitters recognizes the nuances in her experiences with men in her hometown and purposely shines a light on them. On Boys Back Home, she acknowledges the impact boys and men of her rural childhood had on her, despite not being the same girl she was at that time. At the same time, she realizes how rigid expectations of masculinity and ‘manhood’ can cause immense psychological damage to boys on Pretty Boy. Whitters exists in a genre symbolized in pop culture by the hyper masculine cowboy while simultaneously presenting the multifacetedness of people who generally aren’t allowed to be so. 

 

Make no mistake, fun, lighthearted tracks definitely shine on this album, like Our Grass Is Legal (about how people would call her grandfather’s sod farm looking for weed) and the lead breakout single Everything She Ain’t. My personal favorite has to be the title track, however. No matter how you were raised, the joys and mistakes throughout your family tree come to mind when listening. The woozy steel guitar and mind-entrenching melody makes the number one of Whitters’ greatest achievements in her discography.

 

Production wise, Raised is very much a continuation of Whitters’ previous release The Dream but especially its deluxe release Livin’ The Dream with features from 90s country star Trisha Yearwood and others. The clean, arguably more poppier production is balanced with Jake Gear’s (co-producer with Whitters and her now-husband) heavy implementation of acoustic and steel guitars, fiddles, and mandolins. As the genre comes out of a decade of heavy pop, hip-hop, and trap influences, Whitters’ neo-traditional 90s sound is welcomed by modern country audiences.

 

The 2022 record stands as Whitters’ best effort to date. Spending 12 years in Nashville, an town with a ticking clock that she laments about on 2019’s Ten Year Town, and releasing her debut record Black Sheep in 2015 without success, Whitters convinced herself that perhaps she should just go home without achieving her dream. Thankfully, she gave it one more shot with the dismal The Dream and gained some traction within the indie country scene. In contrast, Raised feels like a positive reorientation full of gratitude and love and it’s one I can’t stop revisiting.

In retrospect, Raised continues to exemplify the best qualities of Hailey Whitters: her humble honesty, girl-next-door tone, and thoughtful analysis into the stories of average people. Raised is currently available for streaming on Apple Music, Spotify and whenever else you get your music.

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About the Contributor
Evie Storer, RT Reporter
Evie Storer is a sophomore at Middletown High School and this is her first year taking a journalism class. Her academic passions include language arts, history, and learning foreign languages. Outside of school, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and campy horror musicals. Evie hopes to continue participating in the MHS drama program throughout her high school career. After graduation, she plans to attend a four year university with a major in history and a foreign exchange program.

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