My father spent his first 18 years of his life in North Carolina. Forever loyal to his home, he spent my early years using mixtapes to introduce me to country music inside his pickup truck. I’m no expert on country music, but I have heard a whole lot of it. From all that I’ve been exposed to, I, like most people, have become aware of the many tropes that exist in the genre, like trucks, alcohol, rivers (especially the Mississippi), and so on. A friend of mine even asked me, “How many country songs are there named ‘Crazy Woman’?” Probably many. That’s really where Seventeen Acres falters; when mixed with Joseph Lemay’s background story of living in a Tennessee trailer and working jobs while writing music, it just becomes another example of a stereotype we’ve all heard too many times.
Besides that gripe, there’s plenty to like about Seventeen Acres. Joseph Lemay is a wonderful storyteller (regardless of his recycling habit), and his music could really speak to someone more in tune to this “Southern plight” style of rock than myself. “Nothing You Can Do” might be my favorite song on the album. It runs in the same vein as the country-pop crossovers that get Grammy nods and is tied with “Molly My Girl,” a much more cheery song, for the most energetic track. On the aforementioned “Crazy Woman,” I love the guitars, but not much else.
It’s not my place to comment on the clichés that have remained present in country music for decades, so that won’t be how this ends. The most crushing thing about Seventeen Acres is that the meat of it is really good—the vocals and music are well arranged and engaging— but a lot of the lyrics are just facepalm inducing.