Alexandra Kay’s voice calls listeners to the edges of their seats. The opening lines of the track opening her new record beg you to pay close attention.
"It's hard to say this, and I'm a little embarrassed / But you've been asking where my ring is / I guess it's time I be honest," Kay sings on "Painted Him Perfect."
And you're all in. You want to hear each note, each word, take each fork in the road of her story.
"All I've Ever Known," the already serious country star's first full-length record, rewards all that intention and concern with a set that shares scenes from Kay's life, in moments that prove universal yet distinctly hers. Kay will draw from the album when she visits The Blue Note later this month.
By now, certain narrative details are well-rehearsed. Kay is billed as an old-school singer who charted a new-school path to success. The singer's instrument evokes the likes of Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack and Alison Krauss, AllMusic scribe James Christopher Monger wrote.
Raised on the Illinois side of St. Louis, Kay first applied that voice within the metro hip-hop and R&B scene. Migrating into country music, and sharing her faithful interpretations of iconic songs online, Kay pulled millions of listeners into her orbit on platforms such as Facebook and TikTok.
Today, she is a Grand Ole Opry-baptized, Tim McGraw tour-supporting, well-traveled country star.
Still, "All I've Ever Known" represents a step across a major threshold, a truly complete statement from the singer. And Kay acquits herself well.
"Painted Him Perfect" joins the ever-growing canon of heartbroken musician ballads, as the singer transmits a tale of losing love while finding success. Bridging classic and contemporary country, Kay croons with equal measures of lament and confidence across rippling guitars on the verses, swelling, arena-ready chords on the choruses.
"Everleave" follows, a ballad that would fit nearly any era. The song takes its timeless shape, but feels of the moment thanks to Kay's very present delivery; she knows how to sing like she's in the room beside you.
"Easy" strikes a tenuous but ultimately sure balance — the song displays anthemic strength while Kay relates the most intimate of details, reaching across the bed to find only the absence of her beloved.
Kay distinguishes herself on powerhouse cuts like this, but also in the smaller, quieter things. On "Kiss Me Goodnight," she holds a note across the bar line to lend it extra power; late-album standout "She Stayed" is a gentle ode to friends who stick when lovers leave.
By the opening lines of the closing song, "I Can Do Anything," listeners will sing along and celebrate Kay's resilience. She invests these lyrics with well-tuned power:
I can hang a rope around the moonBuy a house in Phoenix with an ocean viewTurn the trees from green to blueI can bend a plate of steel with these soft handsCall up Patsy and Hank and start a bandDance around in space without a suit
Hanging on every note that follows "Painted Him Perfect," you believe Kay can do all this and more.
Kay plays The Blue Note at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20 with Haley Mae Campbell. Tickets are $22-$45. Visit https://thebluenote.com/ for more details.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com or by calling 573-815-1731. He's on Twitter/X @aarikdanielsen.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Alexandra Kay bends old school, new school together ahead of Columbia date