"For in my dreams, the road's less broken," Bella White croons on the title track of her latest full-length endeavor, Among Other Things. In this line, she encapsulates her overall message, showing you where the place where scrapbooks and dream journals meet. Among Other Things is White's sophomore release, and she soars over all slumps with the ease of seasoned performers. Not only does the production and instrumentation support her beautifully, but she truly shines in how she spins a story.
White opens the album reminiscing on her parents' love story and the realization they may not have been such a fairytale, with a voice reminiscent of Loretta Lynn on the track "The Way I Oughta Go." Not only does the mention of her family evoke a sense of nostalgia, but it directly contrasts the current situation she sings about, feeling long forgotten by the people she loves. There is this lingering message of growing up and the pains that keep you company during each track that passes on the album.
For classic country lovers, who miss age-old tales of woe, White picks up her pace on "Break My Heart." There is nothing like a woman scorned, and following in the footsteps of artists like Miranda Lambert and Brandy Clark, White refuses to hold back on her old lover. Adding contrast to her setlist, the singer/songwriter utilizes a three-line rhyme scheme during the chorus, pointedly stating:
"I was always waitin' for it to all fall apart
You said you had one foot out the door from the start
Oh, so it's almost like you meant to break my heart."
Despite being fairly new to the country scene, White unites old country soul with a modern interpretation to welcome a diverse audience, especially on tracks like this one.
As the record rolls along, White reflects on her mother's teachings, like finding a box of unsent letters under her oak wood bed. During "Numbers," she sings, "I spoke my fears to my mother/ she said, "Honey, just let it be." As young women enter adulthood, there is encouragement and warnings against becoming like the woman who raised them. White showcases the incredibly complex relationships between mothers and daughters in simple lines like this, with words of wisdom that rarely pay off until lessons are learned the hard way. She admits to her mistake, singing, "...and I guess that I grew a little shallow/ when I forsook the words that my mama once said." Not only is it challenging to face the consequences of our actions, but to reminisce on ignored advice adds regret and ignorance that White voices expertly.
A stand-out on the record, "Rhododendron" paints a portrait of spring air and chirping birds right outside the window of our narrator, isolated and terrified of trying to fly. White holds up a mirror that we avoid looking in from time to time when she says, "Can I be a mother or a lover to something greater than my own instinct to suffer?" In the last three years since her previous album release, there has been no greater truth than waking up in bed with only your isolation. Not only does White recognize her desperation to be saved, but she highlights the necessity to put in work to grow. Caring for something, even yourself, requires a consistent hand in the dirt.
Each song feels like finding the key to unlock White's journal, and "Worth My While" is far from an exception. There is something quite special about an artist who is not afraid to showcase their life's desperate, delicate, and ugly moments. She voices her insecure realization, "I wanted your love, but all you ever wanted is someone to touch/ and I don't think that will be me this time." White takes you into the room with her, lonely, naked, and vulnerable to whatever forces of love are at work. She's moving on, ever so slowly, as any split heart can demand from a broken soul. It's a long road ahead, but she'll get there if you sit in the heavy silence beside her.
Country music has long since been built on three chords and the truth, and Bella White is a welcome addition to the unbroken circle of honesty. Her vocals are crisp and sweet like honey, but her words catch you off guard, stinging at the first opportunity. She sets ablaze every misconception she previously held about life and welcomes the harvest that accompanies new experiences and the wisdom that comes with that. With each acknowledgment of falsehood and correction to truth, White exhales and invites her listener to do the same.
Reviewed by Autumn Mackenzie DeSantis