Words can hurt. They pierce and puncture when hurled and thrown. They slash and gash– the cause of last night’s mascara-dyed tears. They can heal. They cure a heart’s forlorn ache. They mend old fences and rectify past undoings. Words, they warm, spark and set ablaze.
Behind her flowing locks of auburn hair, Oklahoma twang, and a wry grin, grows a demanding voice and an equally devastating storyteller, in Country’s own, Kaitlin Butts.
Produced by Oran Thornton (Angaleena Presley, Logan Brill) and recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, What Else Can She Do is Butts’ second full-length studio album following her 2015 debut, Same Hell, Different Devil. The seven-track collection, tells the stories of women— those who are lost, struggling, angry and scared, but who remain resilient through it all.
Reflecting on the album, Butts shares,
“These songs are all stories of different women facing the question: What else can she do? Based on her circumstances, what choices does she have, right or wrong? I don’t think that life is all that pretty sometimes, and it comes with pain and pushing through hard times, being stagnant, going through the motions, not knowing what to do, or just being flat-out angry with whatever life has put on your plate. I see myself in all of these women in these stories. I see these women in my friends and family all around me going through a divorce, abuse, infidelity, financial instability, addiction, generational trauma, family issues, and life-altering tough times, but somehow are still resilient and come out on the other side okay.”
Right off the bat, the opening track “it won’t always be this way,” blends hearty fortitude with delicate vulnerability; a song full of promise in every sense of the word. Understanding this sentiment is crucial when coming to terms with the fact that life itself is one hell of a boxer and will not hesitate to knock you down. But oftentimes, it’s best if we fall to our back and look up at the stars, sometimes only then, will we come to find the beauty in the struggle. The ultimate story of a mother and her promise to her daughter that the best of times are yet to come.
The title track finds a down-on-her-luck waitress broken down by the doldrums of mediocrity. Butts abandons her big-city dreams for “small town pretty” as she waltzes from table to table filling empty coffee cups, and doling out breakfast plates of sizzling bacon and eggs, as pedal steel gently warbles ambient whirls. Happiness is an inside job. In order for one to be content with their life and not fall victim to everyday monotony, they must not pursue happiness but, create it. If you do what you love, you’ll always love what you do.
A definite tone-setter for the album, “blood,” a quaking plea and declaration written with veteran songwriter Angeleena Presley, Butts demands accountability from kin and kith all the same. Armed with a boisterous, gloomy bassline, Butts calls out gaslighting and the bevy of excuses often used to take shots and parting blows–all in the name of unconditional family ties as justification. Sometimes others will make you feel guilty for wanting to sever ties; especially with family members. Because of this, many stick around though they feel so much pain. Here is a reminder that you are allowed to walk away from any relationship despite its title. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for respecting and taking care of yourself. Butts reminds us that even when you’re stuck between a rock and hard place, you either remain stuck in that rut and perish, or you can be the hero of your own story.
Closing out the record, “in the pines” gives life to the perspective of a woman. The haunting rendition puts Butts’ diligence as a storyteller on full display, as she demands to be seen and heard as an artist and woman in music.
Putting forth songs that address the harsh realities of everyday life, while also offering hope and finding beauty amid that pain, Butts positions herself as one of Country’s most engaging new storytellers, by showing just how raw and mighty words and actions can be–and how sometimes, knowing when to walk away can be just as compelling.“I hope this album makes you feel seen and comforts you in times of darkness. Know you are never alone and it won’t always be this way.”
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