Lauren Alaina — Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World (Snakefarm)

Don’t be fooled by the disarming smile or the saccharine sweet artwork.

And don’t for one minute dismiss Lauren Alaina as another powder puff country pop princess.

Looks can be deceiving.

Peel back the layers and this is a gritty record laced with raw emotion.

Alaina charts the good times and the bad on her journey towards the top of the world.

But there’s no sense of smug self-achievement now she’s hit the summit.

Far from it.

The singer songwriter’s third long player points towards the future as much as it celebrates the past.

And that past wasn’t all plain sailing according to the more poignant tunes here.

Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World isn’t so much a statement of fulfilment as it is a reflection on Alaina’s sheer determination, spirit and spark.

Thematically, this is an album that’s all about achievement, ambition and that ultimate ascension to a career high.

Sonically, its heady mix of trad country and punchy pop is a late summer cocktail that boasts a hefty kick.

From The Road Less Traveled to the Top Of The World

If Alaina’s 2017 Road Less Traveled showed the way, then SPOTOTW is where the sassy Georgian belongs.

Sure, it’s far from the final destination for the talented 26-year-old.

In truth, this one-woman hit machine still has a long, long way to go.

But as a pandemic-busting staging post, Alaina’s latest album is perfectly positioned.

The remixed Getting Good — featuring Trisha Yearwood — is an uplifting anthem and a dazzling duet.

There’s something to be said for juxtaposing two of country music’s most affecting voices.

And the combination of Alaina’s clean delivery with Yearwood’s chiselled tones works a treat.

On Top Of The World leans on an understated acoustic riff that doesn’t sound a million miles away from Extreme’s balladeering early 90s peak.

And the retro crackle that signs off on Change My Mind adds a warmth and authenticity to the canny set closer.

Alaina has dropped a simmering 15-track songbook that underpins an intuitive gift for crafting must-hear modern country.

And SPOTOTW will force her critics to sit up and take notice.

Getting Over Him and Getting Good at this

Alaina isn’t just a pretty face and a seriously classy singer.

The multi-platinum selling star co-wrote 14 of the 15 tracks here.

And SPOTOTW showcases myriad examples of Alaina’s songwriting prowess.

The visceral outlaw country vibe at the heart of summer hit Getting Over Him is a peerless case in point.

Alaina and Jon Pardi bring a genuine sense of urgency to this fresh take on a familiar country trope.

Lyrically, the hoped-for wordplay comes thick and fast.

But there’s none better than the inspired ‘We weren’t written in the stars/we were written in the bar’ (from Written In The Bar). Genius.

Award-winning songwriters Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Emily Weisband, David Garcia, Ben Johnson and more ensure the quality never wanes on SPOTOTW.

And Alaina’s ability to capture the perfect mood at the perfect time is central to a truly special record.

Sitting Pretty On Top Of The World? It’s a great place to be.

See you there.