It seems that as measures to halt the spread of coronavirus push us deeper into isolation, music is fast becoming a much-needed companion. Turning to streaming services is one way that fans are trying to support artists in the face of unprecedented gig cancellations, pressing repeat on their favourite songs in order to generate some form of income for their chosen musicians. Meanwhile, artists themselves are also encouraging their followers to purchase items from their stores in a bid to keep them afloat during this uncertain time. If I were to recommend one new music release for country types at the moment, it would be Laura Oakes’ EP How Big is Your World. I can guarantee that it will take your mind off the worries of the world with its infectious and relatable lyrics and highly-polished sound.
Many will already be familiar with opening track ‘Welcome to the Family’ but, even if you are not, its contents are so recognisable that you will become instantly acquainted on first listen. It represents a microcosm of distinct traits that are noticeable in every family, told in a concise and very catchy three minutes. ‘Better in Blue Jeans’ continues the clever musical arrangement with a tongue-in-cheek commentary on social mobility. Oakes is unwavering in her interrogation of her subject’s “undiluted, highfalutin” attitude, explaining in no uncertain terms that “I liked you better in blue jeans”. One imagines that this straight-up, no-messing stance is influenced by her heart-on-sleeve emotionality, which is most evident in ‘Learn to be Lonely Again’. It is not just the story behind this song that makes it especially poignant. Oakes’ voice is an example of deliberate understatement; always telling, simply conveying. She never allows it to belt out a powerful final note. This makes for simple yet affective songs, with confidence placed firmly in the lyrics, the instruments adding an extra gloss.
Final track ‘How Big is Your World’ is a song that I am constantly falling in love with, perhaps because it sounds like it should be on stage in a musical. The clear vocal delivery, meandering chorus, and wistful arrangement make this the perfect song to sit back and enter into reflective mode. On a day where further action is being taken to deal with coronavirus, it certainly helped me to be both in the moment yet mindful of the world outside. It reminded me of music’s ability to uplift us and comfort us. And by purchasing How Big is Your World, it’s good to know that I’m giving something of worth back, especially to such a talented artist like Laura Oakes.
Originally written for Building Our Own Nashville.