With this weekend’s release of her third full-length album, “Come Get Your Wife,” Elle King does exactly what she’s always threatened to do: go authentically full-blown and earnestly country, with the deepest affection and sincerity for the genre. The results of taking on Nashville lock-stock-ham-hock-and-smoking-barrel is King’s most dynamic full album, one full of wonder, whiskey, spite, laughter, sensuality, religion, soul and country-fried spirit.
Make no mistake: King has forever made country a large part of her music-making menu. Starting with the blustery blues and pop-Americana of her bawdy debut, 2012’s “The Elle King EP,” with its giddy single “Good to Be a Man” (which she wrote on banjo), King’s voice and melodies held as much twang as they did the tang of bittersweet R&B and rugged rock-lite. King’s banging Adele-meets-Wanda Jackson hit, “Ex’s & Oh’s,” in 2015 only added to her edgy allure.
Having a genuine smash, however, with duet partner Miranda Lambert on 2021’s anthemic “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” likely pushed King to a winning conclusion: go country or bust.
Though Los Angeles-born and Philadelphia-schooled, Elle King didn’t have to record “Come Get Your Wife” in Nashville in order to swear an oath to the soaring sound of the hills and the plains. Country is as much a part of King’s DNA and its metaphorical tear-in-her-beer tone as is pop and soul. Co-producing her new album with Ross Copperman (of Luke Bryan’s “Strip It Down” fame, among others) and co-writing with Nashville’s current cream-of-the-crop only gave her raw, sonic pedigree some good company to keep.
The vocalist saunters into the slow pluck of the new album’s first track, “Ohio,” with lyrics such as “Find me singing on the back porch swinging, Cur dogs barking, left my dip in the kitchen /That’s when it hit me that I’ve been gone too long” announcing her vaunt into country.
A rangy, rough pedal steel’s slide and a buoyant banjo’s cluck introduces King’s full-throated, echo-effected vocal to “Before You Met Me” and its luscious take on being “the kinda girl who makes you finally settle down… first row every Sunday kinda Christian.” That “Before You Met” comes before the rousing, organ-filled “Try Jesus” and its memorably hearty chorus (“Hey, hallelujah, a-freakin’-men” happily concludes the sermon portion of the day, and ticks off the God boxes that even many au courant country artists still check for success.
The liltingly hell-raising “Bonafide” and several tracks here are co-written by King with Bobby Hamrick, Ella Langley and Matt McKinney, and sound tailor-fit to the vocalist’s shushy voice and tactile swagger — whether it’s the swishy, mid-tempo thumper “Lucky” or the lying-ass-lover, smoke-filled blues of “Tulsa.”
The flying fiddles and fingerpicked guitars of “Crawlin’ Mood,” the Led Zep-like “Blacked Out” and the smoldering “Worth a Shot” (with Dierks Bentley) go by smoothly before winding up at the album’s last two salty cuts, “Out Yonder” and “Love Go By.”
While “Out Yonder” – written by Hamrick, Langley and McKinney without King – is a mangy bad-ass blues rocker with lyrical allusions to “doin’ lines, huffin’ glue, Who’s got a wife and a girlfriend too?,” “Love Go By” is a delicate and yawing, Southern, soulful ballad co-written with Joe Janiak, a British singer/songwriter known for work for Britney Spears, Elle Goulding and Adam Lambert.
Before you worry that there’s nothing country abut Adam or Britney and begin to panic about King’s bona fides, don’t. What is most fascinating about this two-track denouement is how it wraps King’s recent recorded past as the soulful successor to Janis Joplin – a rocking belter with craggily nuanced hat tips to jazz, R&B and traditional folk – into the logical progression of 21st Century country without sounding like a tourist on either side of the ledger.
“Wife” is an Elle King masterstroke of music-making. That it happens to be country makes it all the wilder. Come and get it.