Anticipation. That would be the best word to describe the lead up to the release of Aubrie Sellers’ debut album New City Blues. How could you not be anticipating it? After all Sellers is the daughter of Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers. Everyone in country music is familiar with Womack, as she’s one of the most talented female country artists of the last two decades. You know Sellers better than you think too, as after making music as an artist has made a name for himself as a songwriter. He’s helped pen songs such as Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Montgomery Gentry’s “Some People Change,” Keith Anderson’s “I Still Miss You” and Joe Nichols’ “Sunny and 75.” As you can see, Sellers has been around music all of her life and having two talented parents will certainly draw people’s attention.
This isn’t about her parents though, as Sellers clearly wants to make a name for herself. But growing up around two musician parents has taught her one thing, as she told The Tennesseean in an interview: “Growing up in the business has given me an extra-sensitive bulls**t detector.” This is certainly good to hear, as she seems to be well aware of how the industry works, something many new artists don’t have the benefit of knowing when breaking into it. As for her music style, she says she draws from Americana, bluegrass and rock. When asked to label her music, she calls it “garage country.” So with all of this in mind I dove into New City Blues eager to hear what garage country sounds like and to see if the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. And after listening to it several times, I have to say that garage country sounds pretty damn good and Sellers is just as talented as her mother.
Spacey guitar licks kick off the opening song “Light of Day.” It’s a song that seamlessly blends country and rock that goes well with Sellers’ twangy and powerful vocals. The song is also a nice precursor for the rest of the album, as Sellers isn’t afraid to experiment with the sound. Sellers tackles dealing with heartbreak in “Sit Here And Cry.” It’s a fast-paced song with plenty of guitars and some slick harmonica play. The “garage country” really shines through. “Paper Doll” shows off Sellers’ edgy side, both lyrically and instrumentation wise. She sings about all of the paper dolls she sees around her with their fake smiles and looks, all to stand out. It has a very aggressive and gritty tone, which shows up in the instrumentation too. The guitar play is frenetic and in your face, making for one of the loudest songs on the album. A lot of people I think will be surprised by this song, but will end up enjoying it as one of the best on the album.
The quiet and humble “Losing Ground” follows this. And Sellers shines just as bright on a softer song, as she does on loud ones. Folky in nature, the song is about a woman dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life. But she feels helpless as she continues to deal with more downs and doesn’t know what to do next. The songwriting is really solid on this one. Sellers once again challenges female images with “Magazine.” She sings about how magazines feed everyone, especially women, a line of bullshit all the time and how the fixes in them are purported to work like magic. This song feels very Kacey Musgraves-like and that’s not a bad thing (with Brandy Clark being a co-writer, this isn’t a big surprise). It’s quite good because more female country artists need to speak out about the image women are expected to maintain in not just country music, but in general.
Another highlight of New City Blues is “Dreaming In The Day.” Drenched in 70s rock influences from the heavy reverb to folk rock beat, the song is about a woman who is on cloud nine for days from a passionate night she shared with her man. She was clearly touched by him and now she can’t shake the thought of him, even when sitting in traffic. This is one of those songs where the lyrics and instrumentation go together perfectly together. “Liar Liar” is about a woman calling out a man for being a liar and being quite good at it. Once again I have to applaud the instrumentation and production, as it immediately draws me in and keeps me hooked throughout the song with the dreamy, almost mysterious sound it creates.
The most pleasing to the ears songs on this album is “Humming Song.” It has a wistful and calming tone about it, thanks to the light, acoustic sound the song is based around. But the song itself is far from it, as it’s about a woman realizing her man is falling for another woman. When you realize this, the song takes on a more somber and dark tone. The adventurous “Just To Be With You” is next. It tells the story of a woman quitting her terrible job and going through hell and high water just to be with her man who lives far away. She’s even wiling to steal and hot wire a car just to get to him, showing how dedicated she is to getting to him. It’s crazy and desperate, but hey love makes you do crazy things as this song insinuates.
“People Talking” is about how people will only seem to speak their true thoughts about you when you’re not around. “My ears only burn when they’re not around,” sings Sellers. It goes deeper than this though, as Sellers sings about feeling alone, left out and never fitting in. When you go below the surface of this song, it goes from a Pistol Annies-like song about judgmental people and more about social anxiety and depression. Again it shows how wise beyond her years Aubrie Sellers is in her songwriting. The acoustic-driven “Something Special” is about appreciating the little things in life with the person you love most. Upon the first few listens, it doesn’t stand out much. But the more you listen to it the better it gets. It has a twinkling quality about it that I can’t put my finger on what exactly.
“Loveless Rolling Stone” is about a person always traveling on the road alone and not really have any love in their life, as they’ve dedicated their life to always being on the run. And the person realizes that one day this life has to end and wonder what they will have to show for it. It’s a self-realization song where a person looks deep inside themselves and comes to terms with a harsh reality of what they’ve been doing with their life. The songwriting is not only stellar, but the production is equally good. You get a nice peek into all of the different influences that Sellers cites as the inspiration behind the sound of the entire album. This is followed by “Like The Rain,” which does an even better job than “Something Special” of elevating the standard love ballad. Sellers’ vocals really shine and the lyrics are more engaging and vivid to the listeners.
New City Blues comes to a close with “Living Is Killing Me Stone.” At first I thought this was an odd choice for the final song, but after further listens it fits with the overall theme of the album well and that’s of the young and reckless adult experiencing all kinds of changes in their life as they struggle to find exactly what they want out of it. Plus this song decidedly has the garage country sound that Sellers describes it as in interviews, which is both intriguing and fun for the listeners to sift through.
The debut album New City Blues from Aubrie Sellers proves that she is a very talented artist who is poised to make a lot of great music for years to come. Never before have I heard a debut album from an artist take so many creative risks. Sellers mixes country, bluegrass, Americana and rock like she’s been doing this for decades. There’s nothing safe about this album, from the lyrics to the production. While Sellers may sound just like her mother Lee Ann Womack, she proves to have her own style and more than enough talent to step out of this shadow and make her own name. New City Blues can feel like a bit of a slog to get through at 14 songs and many songs will take multiple listens to fully grasp. But I assure you it’s well worth your time to sit down and listen to this album over and over.