"The Bird and The Rifle," the title track, is a songwriting highlight of the record. Written by McKenna, along with Caitlyn Smith and Troy Verges, the song compares a couple to a bird and a rifle: the bird, always trying to escape and fly away, and the rifle, always trying to keep her from leaving. The lyric "And the bird is always dreaming out the window / Looking at that big wide open sky / And the rifle, he used to be a dreamer / But he wasn't meant to fly," stands out, really bringing their relationship and the conflict to life. At the end of the track, the bird actually does manage to leave the rifle, even though she loves him. The song has such a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It tells a story, a full story, not just a detailed snapshot of a relationship. A full story in a song is a difficult thing to do well, and McKenna, Smith and Verges kill it.
"Halfway Home" and "Humble & Kind" are two songs recently cut by country artists: Logan Brill and Tim McGraw, respectively. Both of the songs in the cut versions were incredible. But McKenna's voice and production adds a raw element to both of the tracks, making "Halfway Home" more heartbreaking, and making "Humble & Kind" more convincing.
In "Old Men Young Women" McKenna brings up a completely new topic, in a way that only she is so eloquently able to do. Think of "Girl Crush," "Three Kids No Husband," and "Humble & Kind." Those three songs all brought a new perspective and a new topic into country music. With "Women," McKenna discusses the flaws of a relationship between an old man and a young woman, as indicated in the title. "She a prize, he's winning / she thinks it is what it isn't / neither one can change what's missing" emphasizes the deep flaws in that kind of relationship. McKenna also manages to insert some humor into the song, with the second line, "I guess wife number three could be the one," and "he's had enough damn practice / he sure as hell should."
This album is not only an incredible listen, but it also is an inspiration for music fans to continue believing in great music. Country music is in such an odd state right now, with horrible songs polluting a lot of the radio, and some incredible albums hiding under those awful songs. As of now, this is my favorite record by a woman of country this year, and I don't expect that to change. I wouldn't be shocked if this were up for a Grammy early next year. Album of the year? I wouldn't be surprised.
Best songs: "The Bird & The Rifle," "Halfway Home," "Old Men Young Women"
Throwaway tracks: none
Overall rating: 5 crowns