Album Review: Katie Pruitt, 'Expectations'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for Folk Alley

Katie Pruitt Folk Alley Album Review Kelly McCartney

Back in the 1990s, substantive lyrics paired with catchy melodies were the norm for pop radio. Look no further than the commercial success of artists like Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and others for proof. But, then, for whatever reason, pop rose to the surface, leaving the depths to the be plumbed, and so very well, by the rising milieus of Americana and Triple-A.

Singer/songwriter Katie Pruitt was born smack dab in the middle of the '90s, apparently soaking up the decade's musical ethos in utero and after, as made apparent on her debut album, Expectations. Rare are first-album lyrical voices so fully formed and fully engaging as Pruitt's. Rarer still are they embedded within the kind of hooks and arrangements that songwriters hope to someday catch an earful of. Yet, song after song, Pruitt delivers on every level — writing, performance, and production (with help from producer Michael Robinson).

The real weight of Expectations lies in the topics taken on. This isn't just a batch of well-written love songs, though those are there, too. Rather, Pruitt swings for the fences, leaving it all on the field. She had to because her life experiences, up to now, have included internal (and external) struggles with mental health, familial stress over sexual orientation, personal reckoning with true love, and professional pressures from multiple sources. Pruitt takes it all and pours it into poetry.

Tackling mental health from various perspectives, Pruitt lays bare her own inner battle with depression on the soaring anthem of liberation that is “My Mind's a Ship (That's Going Down),” then moves on to confront the shock of adulthood on the John-Mayer-wishes-he-wrote-this hit-in-waiting that is “Expectations.” Further in, she offers a compassionate take on the anxiety and other issues of a former lover in the thoroughly captivating “Grace Has a Gun.”

All of that would — and should — be enough to prove Pruitt's worth, but, wait, there's more. Another hat-trick of tunes dives into her coming out process. Heartbreakingly raw and tender, “Normal” details her days of trying to find where she fit in high school and college, all while being told by everyone that who she was and how she feels was wrong. It's a song that any and every gay person will readily, sadly relate to.

“Georgia,” similarly, uses a gorgeously sparse setting to recount the coming out trauma of being shamed by her family in the name of religion. “If I told my mom, she would scream at the top of her lungs, saying I don't belong,” Pruitt sings, saving the TKO for the tag, “Sure hope she's wrong.” The things we do to each other are bad enough, but using faith to justify those actions is unspeakably destructive. Luckily, Pruitt and her parents have since sorted things out, with more than a little help from these songs.

The third entry in that particular trilogy is the gloriously triumphant “Loving Her,” which finds Pruitt flipping the proverbial bird to all the haters of the world and shrugging off the shame they work so hard to impose on her. “If loving her's a choice, she's all I'm gonna choose. No way you can sway me in another's favor,” she sings defiantly, adding, “Some people choose Buddha, Jesus, or booze, but her body's my temple and her soul is my savior.” Preach, Katie Pruitt. Preach.

This album, sadly, won't sell 33 million copies like Jagged Little Pill did, but it is, nevertheless, just as important a debut as that was. Honestly, for queer kids in crisis, it's arguably even more important... if only pop radio would play it so that those kids could hear it.


Expectations is available now at Apple Music and Amazon.


Upcoming tour dates:

MAR 20 FRI
Ruins
w/ Tre Burt
Dallas, TX, United States

MAR 21 SAT
White Oak Music Hall
w/ Tre Burt
Houston, TX, United States

MAR 24 TUE
Valley Bar
w/ Tre Burt
Phoenix, AZ, United States

MAR 26 THU
The Hotel Cafe
w/ Tre Burt
Hollywood, CA, United States

MAR 28 SAT
Constellation Room
w/ Tre Burt
Santa Ana, CA, United States

MAR 29 SUN
Cafe Du Nord
w/ Tre Burt
San Francisco, CA, United States

MAR 31 TUE
Bunk Bar
Portland, OR, United States

APR 1 WED
Sunset Tavern
w/ Kristen Marlo
Seattle, WA, United States

APR 3 FRI
Kilby Court
Salt Lake City, UT, United States

APR 5 SUN
Globe Hall
w/ William Prince
Denver, CO, United States

APR 7 TUE
Turf Club
w/ William Prince
St Paul, MN, United States

APR 8 WED
The Riot Room
w/ William Prince
Kansas City, MO, United States

APR 9 THU
Blueberry Hill
w/ William Prince
St Louis, MO, United States

APR 10 FRI
Space
w/ William Prince
Evanston, IL, United States

APR 11 SAT
Hi-Fi
w/ William Prince
Indianapolis, IN, United States

APR 13 MON
The Drake Hotel
Toronto, ON, Canada

APR 15 WED
Mercury Lounge
w/ William Prince
New York, NY, United States

APR 16 THU
Wolf Den
Uncasville, CT, United States

APR 17 FRI
Cafe 939
w/ William Prince
Boston, MA, United States

APR 18 SAT
Milkboy
w/ William Prince
Philadelphia, PA, United States

APR 20 MON
DC9
w/ William Prince
Washington, DC, United States

APR 21 TUE
Cat's Cradle
w/ William Prince
Carrboro, NC, United States

APR 22 WED
Eddie's Attic
w/ William Prince
Decatur, GA, United States

APR 24 FRI
Zanzabar
Louisville, KY, United States

MAY 12 TUE
Roxian Theaw/ Tre
Mckees Rocks, PA, United States

MAY 13 WED
Rams Head Live
Baltimore, MD, United States

MAY 15 FRI
Hackensack Meridian Health Theaw/ Tre at the Count Basie Center for the Arts
Red Bank, NJ, United States

MAY 16 SAT
Franklin Music Hall
Philadelphia, PA, United States

MAY 18 MON
Ulster Performing Arts Center
Kingston, NY, United States

MAY 19 TUE
College Street Music Hall
New Haven, CT, United States

MAY 22 FRI
State Theatre, Portland, Maine
Portland, ME, United States

MAY 24 SUN
MTELUS
w/ City and Colour
Montreal, QC, Canada

MAY 28 THU
State Theatre of Ithaca
Ithaca, NY, United States

MAY 29 FRI
The Rapids Theatre
Niagara Falls, NY, United States

JUL 10 FRI
Natural Chimneys Park
Mount Solon, VA, United States

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