If you’re a big fan of country music and like to keep up with the genre’s contemporary culture, you already know that the last few years have been a time of great inconsistency in Nashville. What was once a style of music defined by its continuity has become a fractured, multilayered aesthetic as broadminded as the land that inspired it in the first place, and artists like B.B. Cole are likely the reason why. Although Cole has a lot in common with the country players of yesteryear melodically speaking, her artistry is much more diverse and leans toward progressive concepts too large and in charge to be contained within the context of a single genre. Her debut album is titled Outgrowing Ourselves, and to some extent, its name is a reflection of the state of country music today.

I really love how big a factor balance plays in this tracklist, whether it be in the fluidity between a trio of songs like “When I Was a Little Girl,” “Wear Your Crown,” and “Tears and Fears,” or simply the instrumental symmetry in “Emotional Baggage” and “She Gave Me Feathers.” It feels like creating a level narrative both poetically and musically was something of tremendous importance to this singer/songwriter when she sat down with the basic concepts for Outgrowing Ourselves, and because this is only her first studio album there’s a good chance she can make a habit of doing so whenever she broaches the making of an LP.

The harmonies in “Pieces of Me” and “Some Kind of Religion” are quite striking on their own, but next to the rhythm of these two tracks I think they’re all the more immersive for the listener. The cosmetics of this album are intriguing, but they’re never a stand-in for colorful linguistics or heartfelt emotional commentary, the latter being something born more of a connection between artist and medium than it ever is lyrics on their own.

Cole has the talent of a conventional singer/songwriter with a much more focused intensity when she’s at the microphone than any folk players I’ve been listening to and reviewing in the past year, and hers could be the sort of creative input that the country music underground could benefit most from at the moment.

Listeners who can’t go without a sweet country melody to get the summer season started need to go out of their way to hear Outgrowing Ourselves before the July heat turns up, as it’s possibly one of the smartest indie records of this genre to debut in the past year. In B.B. Cole, fans of country have a player who isn’t intimidated by experimentation or ambition – from what I can tell about her in this record, she’s embracing both as a means of getting her point across to anyone who is listening. There are a lot of artists trying to make LPs similar to what Outgrowing Ourselves is all about, but very few are competitive with the magnetism this tracklist has to offer every time I hear it.

Sebastian Cole