Apr 15, 2022

Album Review / Kaitlin Butts / What Else Can She Do

By Megan Bledsoe

For years now, Kaitlin Butts has been releasing singles, slaying live performances, and generally making us all--or at least those smart enough to pay attention--eagerly anticipate the day when she would at last grace us with her second album. Now that day has finally come, with a record that will hopefully establish Kaitlin Butts as one of the best emerging artists in the Red Dirt scene. Though the seven-song project might seem a little short, especially given the long time between albums, the resulting record tells a complete and powerful story. Short albums like this one work when they have something specific to say, and Kaitlin Butts certainly does, delivering a message of hope and resilience and painting a portrait of those who face the worst that life has to offer and yet somehow prevail.

The women of What Else Can She Do face very different trials. There's the mother in "It Won't Always Be This Way," constantly comforting herself and her child with these words as she tries desperately to think of a way for them to leave her abusive husband. There's the brokenhearted narrator of "Jackson" who laments the fact that she may never get married, while the young wife in "Bored if I Don't" bemoans the fact that she did. The hapless, homesick waitress of the title track dreams of life back home in the country, all the while knowing she will never return. But though their circumstances are different, all of Butts' characters share a common desperation, each of them standing at the various crossroads in their lives and forced to face the consequences of their choices. And Kaitlin Butts displays her talent as a songwriter in that she is able to empathize with each of them individually while simultaneously uniting them all in the bonds of struggle.

The struggle, however, is only half of the picture and only a part of what unites these characters and makes this record cohesive. All of these women also share a common bond of resilience and strength. The narrator of "It Won't Always Be This Way" never stops echoing the words, even though she has no idea how many more times she'll need to repeat them, and eventually, she and her child are able to begin a new life. The young girl in "She's Using" fights to overcome her addiction with the help of supportive family and friends. The narrator of "Jackson" finds new resolve to leave the man who keeps letting her down. Through it all, Kaitlin Butts weaves a powerful tale of hope, instilling the message that we can survive the worst of circumstances and even come out on the other side having been made stronger by the experience.

Country music has historically been for the downtrodden, for the lonely, for all those who can find comfort in a sad story which sounds achingly similar to their own. Kaitlin Butts understands this instinctively and offers us all this comfort, telling the stories of abuse, addiction, heartbreak, and regret with candor, with warmth, and with understanding. But more than that, she cautions that these situations do not define us. She paints a compelling picture of strength and determination, gently reminding us that, although there are "lots of sad stories," as the title track states, our stories do not have to end sadly. Instead we may change our stories, so that, like the tales of these women, ours may become stories of enduring hope and unwavering perseverance.

What Else Can She Do is available today everywhere you purchase or stream music.

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