Song Review: Rachel Wammack, “Enough”

This isn’t bad, but will it be “Enough” to break through the country radio blockade?

Wammack’s debut single “Damage” peaked at an impressive #13 in my 2018 year-end country single rankings, but country radio apparently didn’t share my enthusiasm, because I can’t find any record on Billboard’s site of the song even charting. While this was not terribly surprising given the genre’s continued allergy to female artists, it was disappointing nonetheless, and moved Sony to change their approach for Wammack’s next single (so much so that they scrapped the rest of her debut EP). Instead of the big-voice power ballad that was “Damage,” Wammack’s new follow-up single “Enough” features more tempo, a more-conventional sound, and more hints of overdone subject matter—in other words, it’s a safer radio play all the way around. While I personally find it to be a slight step back from “Damage,” I also find its radio prospects to be slightly (but not much) brighter this time around.

The first change you’ll notice is how much brighter and positive the production sounds, dumping the somber piano and opening with spacious atmospheric synths and steel guitar instead. The mix remains fairly soft through the first verse (some acoustic strumming and barely-there synthetic percussion are added), but eventually the electric guitars and real drums jump in to give the arrangement some volume for the chorus (a slow-rolling, dangerously-close-to-token banjo also makes an appearance). It’s got a dreamy, uplifting feel to it (heck, I’d even call it borderline spiritual), perfecting complementing the content of the lyrics: The narrator has big dreams, but even if they don’t come true, their current state is still pretty good. I also like how the song manages its momentum, starting slow and slowly building energy until unleashing it on the final chorus. I wouldn’t call it the most novel or most interesting of mixes, but it knows what it’s supposed to do and executes the plan to perfection.

Wammack still does her usual Adele impression on this track, but she seems less comfortable at times than she did on “Damage.” When she’s allowed to let loose on the choruses, she seems to be in her element (heck, I think her vocals add more momentum to the song than the instruments), but on the verses she loses some of her vocal power and her flow gets a bit choppy (actually, it reminds me a lot of Carly Pearce on “Closer To You”). Unlike Pearce, however, Wammack manages to keep the song’s mood from getting too dark at any point, and the chorus repetition at the end allows her to close the track on a high note. It’s not a performance that grabs you immediately, but over time Wammack breaks through the barrier between herself and the audience and lets them share in her joy and contentment. Overall it’s a solid, charismatic turn at the mic, and while it’s not quite as moving to me as “Damage” was, it’s not bad by any means.

The lyrics here tell the tale of perhaps the most self-aware narrator I’ve heard in quite some time: They have their eyes on a prize that is a lifetime of love and happiness with their significant other, but they also realize that they’ve achieved quite a bit in that category already, and they know that even if their full dreams are never realized, they’ve still got “enough” to be satisfied. (While I wonder if there’s a little meta commentary thrown in here, i.e. “even if Nashville never really lets me in, I’ve still come a long way,” but the writing is so home-focused that it seems unlikely.) While the imagery here is fairly run-of-the-mill, I appreciate that the level of detail is high enough to really paint a picture in the listener’s mind (“big backyard, brick house, white shutters, front porch swing”? I want a house like that too! As long as the property taxes aren’t too high…). There’s a relentless positivity coursing through the lyrics, and they leave plenty of hooks for Wammack to infuse them with energy and elevate them to another level. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll make you smile for a few minutes, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

While I consider “Damage” to be the superior track, “Enough” is, well, enough! It’s a decent track with suitable production, workmanlike lyrics, and a great performance from Rachel Wammack to tie the whole thing together. Is it enough to finally catch the radio’s eye and earn Wammack the spotlight time and respect she deserves? I have my doubts, but that’s on country music more than her. If the genre is really serious about getting some gender balance back into their format, “Enough” may not be enough, but it’s a darn good place to start.

Rating: 6/10. Give it a chance and see what you think.

Song Review: Rachel Wammack, “Damage”

Wait…since when has Adele starting sending singles to country radio?

Rachel Wammack is an Alabama native who signed with Sony Music Nashville in Feburary and released a debut EP in April, but didn’t release her debut single “Damage” to radio until late last month. I’m surprised it took Sony this long to unleash their new artist, because outside of Carrie Underwood no one else is running in this “country power balladeer” lane, and Wammack seems to have all the tools to fill that role. It’s a restrained but moving look at how love can cut both ways during/after a relationship, and features a strong combination of sound, singer, and songwriter. It’s the kind of song that deserves a chance to do some “Damage” on the radio, but likely won’t get it.

If it’s a serious song in Nashville, you can bet it’s centered on a somber piano, and this song is no exception. However, the piano isn’t at prominent as you might expect, as it sharing time with an acoustic guitar at the start of the song and slips into the background as more instruments (drum set, steel guitar, and eventually an entire string section) are tossed into the mix. In truth, the piano functions more as the backbone of the song than the percussion, combining with the strings to create a warm, intimate atmosphere that fits the evening barroom setting perfectly. The tones here are a nice mixture of light and darkness, mirroring love’s creative and destructive power and highlighting both the pain and the recovery of those in the story. All in all, it’s a nice mix that helped the song form a bond with a listener and draws them into the story.

The Adele comparison is actually Rolling Stone’s, not mine (the first person that jumped into my mind was Underwood), and while I don’t think Wammach quite reaches their level in terms of sheer power (in fact, I think “Damage” tries to hold her back with its understated approach), her strong, bright vocal tone suggests she could really blow the windows out of the place if she wanted. (In fact, her vocals inject more light into the track than the instruments do!) While the song’s shackles causes her to sound a bit breathy at times, they don’t impact her earnestness at all, and Wammack demonstrates enough charisma to own the narrator’s role and forge a connection with the listener. A song like this places a huge burden on the artist to come across as believable, but Wammack succeeds here without even breaking a sweat.

The writing, in which a bartender reflects on their observations of love as both a source of joy and source of pain, is not the most novel topic in the world, regardless if we consider the perspective of the patron (Michael Peterson’s “When The Bartender Cries,” Kenny Chesney’s “The Good Stuff”) or the bartender (George Jones’s “Bartender’s Blues”). Still, the lyrics here stand out by being exceptionally sharp and observant, especially in the opening verse:

I’m a bartender
Best friend pretender
I make drinks to help forget and help remember
Beautiful humans
I am a student
And I’ve seen it from all sides winning and losing

We don’t get a ton of details about the bar patrons in later persons, but there’s enough here to paint a picture in the listener’s mind and make them reflect on the pain in these peoples’ lives (and perhaps their own as well). (Also, there’s certainly more depth here than most of the other barroom tracks I’ve heard recently, such as Garth Brooks’s latest single.) It’s a nice reminder that bars aren’t just places where people go to party, and that some serious issues often lie underneath the alcoholic veneer. I’m not entirely sure the song would stand up in the hands of a lesser singer, but when paired with Wammack’s emotional vocals and the production’s perfect atmosphere, the whole thing (especially the narrator’s self-reflective turn at the very end) becomes something special.

“Damage” is a quality song and Rachel Wammack sounds like a quality singer, which makes it even more frustrating when you consider the song’s likely fate: A wall of radio ambivalence, a cameo in the Top 50 if the powers that be are feeling generous, and an undeserved trip to the dustbin of history. If I were Sony, I’d open up the vaults and do whatever I could to get Wammack some airplay, because this song indicates that she’s got some serious potential.

Rating: 7/10. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.