One Thing at a Time
Morgan Wallen has done it again.
No, he isn’t back to hurling N-words. Nor is he kissing any woman with a pulse at a college bar. He simply dropped a new album — and unfortunately, it’s damn good.
“One Thing at a Time” (out Friday) is a beast of a record, clocking in at just under two hours with a whopping 36 songs.
Wallen, 29, wastes no time acknowledging his flaws on the follow-up to his 2021 blockbuster, “Dangerous: The Double Album,” crooning on his latest opening track, “Born With a Beer in My Hand,” that he’s “doing the best” he can to stay sober.
“I ain’t the devil that I acted like years ago,” promises the guy who once blew off the NAACP.
Wallen also finds himself face-to-face with his demons on the ’80s-inflected title track, admitting that while he has “a lot of habits” to kick, the first — and perhaps most unexpected — on his list is heartbreak.
At times, the country singer, who last publicly dated social media influencer Paige Lorenze, describes falling off the wagon during lonesome periods. He finds himself in front of a bartender “all night” long on “Whiskey Friends” and candidly cops to “mixing liquors” to forget an ex on “You Proof.”
But for such a polarizing figure, Wallen has an admirable sense of self-awareness here. The reflective ballad “Thought You Should Know” is an ode to his mother, to whom he apologizes for “makin’ some bad decisions” on his road to success. He also issues a mea culpa on “Wine Into Water,” telling a girlfriend that they should “get to the bottom of these problems” instead of going to bed angry.
The “Voice” alum’s evolving maturity shines through the most on the penultimate acoustic number “Outlook,” on which he sings, “Funny all the things you realize / When that 20/20 hindsight vision opens up your eyes.”
“One Thing at a Time” is a roller coaster of an album — much like the last three years of Wallen’s life have been. He spotlights as many personal highs as he does lows and dabbles in just about every genre that has shaped his career thus far, from rock (“Last Drive Down Main”) to hip-hop (“Ain’t That Some”).
However, at his core, the Tennessee native remains a country boy. He lets his honky-tonk flag fly high on “Last Night,” a finger-snapper chronicling a relationship that “ain’t over yet,” as well as “Everything I Love,” a standout earworm with a killer melody interpolating The Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider.”
So, yeah, Wallen may not be Prince Charming, but he never claimed to be. And, man, does his story make for one hell of an album — like it or not.
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