Track listing: Call Me Crazy, Free Kind of Me, Dream Girl, Just Look at Me, Alright By You, Ms. Moxie, Send Me, Co-pilot, The Complication, Mr. Miyagi, He Was Good, Take A Ride, Uncommon These Days
Becky Wiles is the songstress of Madison, Wisconsin, winning in 3 categories of the 2023 Madison Area Music Association Awards. "Call Me Crazy" was awarded Country-American Song of the Year. Country-Traditional Song of the Year honors went to "Co-pilot." And "Mr. Miyagi" was crowned as the top Country-Alternative Song of the Year.
With all the accolades, her latest album Free Kind of Me is certainly worth a listen. As the categories convey, Wiles weaves her away around the sub-genres of Country Music. Songs like "Just Look at Me" impress with their grandiose nature, a full string section, and plaintive piano-accompanied lyrics. While tracks like "Dream Girl" get back to the roots of acoustic guitar and vocals, with a friendly addition of Mark Croft in a really sweet duet.
The sass and attitude factors are stronger in the lead-off track, "Call Me Crazy," with its banjo, fiddle, and steel guitar leaning on a more traditional style. While Wiles lets her vocals soar on the gorgeous aforementioned "Mr. Miyagi."
I listen to a lot of new music. And my first impression of Free Kind of Me just a few seconds into the album was that this was a pretty simple record. Nothing fancy. Vocals straight-forward. Just some really pretty Country/Western influenced singer/songwriter tunes. And the more I listened, the more this rang true. But instead of it being a reductive, critical opinion, I began to see that it was Wiles' strength on this recording--she isn't flashing with vocal gymnastics. The production, while crystal-clear and well-done, isn't such that you're dazzled by post-production hijinx.
What we have here is an honest-to-good solid record. It's not fancy. Becky sings from her heart. Her band plays tastefully, accenting her writing but never stepping over the focus: her voice and her lyrics. It's not often these days when you find that the strength of a record is in the lyrics and the passion with which the singer conveys their message.
Becky Wiles has something here. The folks at the MAMA Awards could see it. Now you can, too.
Keep up with Becky, her new music, performances and more at beckywilesmusic.com.