Andi Rae Healy is not an Australian country music artist – she lives in Brooklyn, NY – but she has an important Australian connection: she was inspired to start writing country music at a Kasey Chambers concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Part. Chambers has, no doubt, inspired many an artist, but it would be hard for many of them to reach the level of pure sass and likeability that Healy attains on her recently released album Last Time I Checked This Was a Free World and I Wasn’t Anybody’s Girl, which features her band, The Back River Bullies.
The tone of this album is set by the title – which is a good thing, as if you’re going for a title like that you’d want to back it up with songs that tell it straight. And Healy delivers, on every single one of the eleven songs. Lyrically the songs are clearly expressed stories, each one taking the listener on a journey and not putting lipstick on any pigs along the way. Musically it’s clear that Healy and her band have broad influences within country music and that they have taken care to support the lyrics with the right musical expression, and it’s also clear that they must be entertainers at heart, because there’s not a single second of song that lags.
Healy’s songs cover a range of subjects, from this being a free world (the title track) to questioning political activities in that free world (‘What Were You Thinking?’), to mysterious characters one meets (‘Curse’ and ‘I Met a Man’), the ups and downs of romance, and a topic that’s popped up a bit this year: boredom. Several songs on this album can be simply a toe-tapping good time if you want them to be, but the depth of the lyrics is there if you want that too. The album was created well before the world slowed down, but it’s a lovely pep-up at a time when such a thing is not just welcome but needed.